Employing a staff of 10,000, The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) maintains 14 complexes across the state that collectively house more than 42 thousand inmates. The ADC’s procurement needs are handled by the Procurement Services Unit, which has an approximate annual budget of $1.1 million and is tasked with sourcing products and services for each ADC facility, including supplies and materials for inmate education and rehabilitation programs. [i]
In 2015, nearly twenty thousand inmates were released from ADC facilities. Another department of the ADC, the Division of Inmate Programs and Reentry (DIPR), helps prepare these and other ex-inmates for successful reentry into communities throughout Arizona by administering reintegration programs, including the Arizona Correctional Industries and Reentry Planning. The focus of these initiatives is to place inmates in programs that support their individual needs. [ii]
Arizona Correctional Industries
One of the largest programs under the DIPR is the Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI). Through the ACI inmates can participate in a positive working and learning environment where they gain experience that can be used to serve the local community upon their release.
The ACI is structured like a traditional business, with departments for administrative services, business development, sales, marketing, customer service, finance, accounting and operations. By developing partnerships with private sector and government organizations, the ACI creates and identifies market opportunities for the goods and services produced by inmates. [iii]
The ACI’s catalog of inmate produced products includes hundreds of items such as bike racks, grills, nameplates, badges, license plates, outdoor signs and other manufactured goods. Along with their standard product catalog, ACI is also equipped to manufacture custom furniture and design custom print jobs for customers, onsite at their facilities. [iv]
A Trained Labor Force
Businesses in Arizona can also take advantage of a unique service offered by ACI: Groups of inmates can be hired as a labor force for call centers in order to perform customer service duties, creating an alternative to outsourcing these jobs internationally. ACI makes every possible effort to ensure that the use of its labor force does not take employment opportunities away from the people of Arizona. Companies are able to employ ACI labor in an on-demand manner, creating a more flexible and cost efficient option for temporary staffing.
Businesses that want to hire inmate labor must enter into a contractual agreement with the ACI. Men and women working in this program are paid by the contracting business at the Federal or State minimum hourly rate (whichever is higher). Some security and administrative charges may need to be paid by the contracting business and the ACI will provide transport for the work force to most locations.
The inmates that are part of the ACI labor force are motivated and reliable. By participating in this program inmates are able to help support their families and make contributions to a mandatory saving fund for use during their transition back into society. Contributions are also made towards any court-ordered restitution and victim’s compensation funds.
Horse Training and Care
The Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP) is a partnership between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), ACI and ADC. Created to assist the BLM in its goal of developing and maintaining public land for the continued growth of the nation’s wild horses, WHIP allows inmates to work with experienced animal trainers to prepare horses for adoption.
Located across from the prison complex in Florence AZ, the WHIP facility is home to more than 900 wild horses and 85 burros. Inmates working as a part of WHIP receive hands-on-training in the equestrian field, learning horsemanship, animal husbandry and farrier skills. The Wild Horse Program teaches inmates patience and respect, helping to build their self-confidence and providing them with skills they can use upon their release.
Opportunities with ACI
The ability of the ACI to produce products, provide labor services and care for animals is dependent on the education provided to the inmates as part of their reentry programs. Specialized training is required for manufacturing, fabrication, soft skills, and animal care for the inmates working in the various programs. In addition to training, special equipment is needed for each program: computers, printers, manufacturing tools, heavy machinery and farm equipment all must be procured by the ACI through Arizona’s procurement system. ACI is structured and operates like many private companies; however it is a division of the Arizona Department of Corrections, which opens the doors for vendors to find new contract opportunities with the State of Arizona.
Kevin McClintock | BidNet.com