Tax incentives for businesses who hire ex-felons - Tucson News Now

Tax incentives for businesses who hire ex-felons

SIERRA VISTA, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Thousands of prisoners are released from local jails and prisoners every year.  The sad news, majority of them will end up back behind bars for committing another crime.

Some studies show that seven out of ten former prisoners will get re-arrested within three years of release.

Some former prisoners said they felt more free behind bars, than they did on the outside.  Once they were released the biggest challenges they faced were finding a home, and getting back on a payroll.

Former prisoners who spoke to Tucson News Now said they still felt a big stigma attached to the fact that they had served time.

Sarah Montoya, who served 4 years in prison for her role in smuggling illegal immigrants, said when she got out she felt like an outcast in society.

"Prison time is easy compared to being out here," said Montoya.

She struggled to find a job.  Even after she was hired on the spot, once the background check came back, Montoya said she was fired.

"You come out of prison with a low self esteem as it is. It felt like there was no hope, as far as one being successful." said Montoya.

The only jobs she was able to find were in the fast food industry.

That is the plight of most prisoners who are released after serving their time.

Cochise County is in the infancy stages of forming the Re-entry Coalition, a grassroots effort comprised of local community leaders, ministers, and business owners, to help ex-felons get jobs.

"They have already served their time when fulfilling their prison sentence.  When they are released they continue to be punished again," said Kathy Henderson, a member of the Cochise County Re-entry Coalition.

"They're frustrated, they're discouraged, and some of them get re-arrested and put back in prison because of the discouragement of not being able to find housing or employment," said Henderson.

Many business owners remained skeptical of hiring ex-felons because of the risk involved.

Robert Leach, a community leader and member of the reentry coalition said, to help reassure business owners, they wanted to educate the community about tax incentives and Fidelity bonds available for those willing to take that risk.

Businesses who hire an ex-felon within one year of their release from prison could be eligible for a tax break of up to $2,400 per person they hired.  It did not matter if it was a full time, part time or temp job, as long as the person clocked in 400 hours a year.

Through Fidelity Bonding, a business could also get insurance protection for free, incase something were to go wrong.  Leach said this included dishonesty, theft, or other issues that came up with hiring an ex-felon.

"The government is willing to give you free insurance for taking that risk," said Leach.

Montoya started the PRAISE ministry in Cochise County after her release, to help other ex-offenders like herself, get the support and help they need to integrate in society.  She said more help was needed.

Pima County, Yavapai County, and Maricopa county have similar ex-offender re-entry programs in place.

Cochise County leaders held their first meeting last month.

They plan to hold another meeting on Thursday, Feb. 28th to educate local business owners who are interested in finding out more about the program.

The meeting is from at 3-5 PM at the Sierra Vista Library, in the Mona Bishop Room. 

The Cochise County Reentry Coalition is inviting members of the Sierra Vista business community to a discussion about tax incentives and fidelity bonding to protect businesses that hire ex-felons.


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