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Sunnyside Weed and Seed Cosponsors First Job Fair at County Jail

Photo showing inmates collecting information at Coconino County jail's first job fair.
Inmates collect information at Coconino County jail's first job fair.

In June, the Sunnyside Weed and Seed site in Flagstaff, AZ, cosponsored the first job fair ever held inside the Coconino County Detention Facility. For the first time, inmates could apply for employment from jail to help them begin the process of successfully moving back into the community. In addition to Sunnyside and the jail, other sponsors included the Arizona Workforce Connection, Native Americans for Community Action, and Goodwill Industries. Flagstaff's Southside community also has a designated Weed and Seed site, and its community association got involved as well.

The idea for a job fair emerged as an extension of the employment skills classes offered at the jail since November 2006. The classes, held every Saturday afternoon, are designed to help people in jail gain the basic computer and employment skills they will need to reach eventual long-term self-sufficiency when they return to their old neighborhoods. The classes cover job search skills, creating a résumé, career decisionmaking and planning, effective applications, interviewing techniques, and how to stay employed.

Both the job fair and the employment classes are projects of Genisis-X. Funded in part by Weed and Seed and launched in December 2005, Genisis-X (which stands for Growth & Empowerment Neighborhood Initiative for Strengthening the Individual Success of eX-felons) is a joint Sunnyside and Southside neighborhood reentry initiative. Its personnel work with ex-offenders and their probation or parole officers to help them return successfully to Flagstaff's Sunnyside and Southside neighborhoods by offering referrals to jobs, housing, education, and other social services to help fulfill their needs (e.g., for clothing, food, furniture, counseling).

During its first year of operation Genisis-X served more than three times as many clients as it had planned for, and its employment success rate has been high. In 2006, 53 individuals on probation from jail or parole from prison found employment, housing, information about continuing education, and other services through Genisis-X. Of these 53 participants, 38 are employed (73 percent). The types of work these ex-offenders obtained include construction, cooking, medical data coding, motel housecleaning and front office work, work in a newspaper mailroom or pressroom, restaurant maintenance, restaurant service, steel fabrication, telemarketing, and warehouse management.

Another successful program is the Genisis-X Work Night, which is a 2-hour workshop held every Tuesday night at Sunnyside One-Stop, a neighborhood employment and skills training center. The workshops are designed to help people dealing with a misdemeanor or felony conviction to find employment. Each month has a theme. With June's theme of "Getting Ahead," for example, every Tuesday focused on job-related issues such as managing a job and family, keeping the creditors away, using school to get ahead, and 10 steps to landing your dream job.

Genisis-X is part of the crime prevention piece of Flagstaff's strategy for its Weed and Seed sites in the Sunnyside and Southside neighborhoods. Sunnyside was designated as a Weed and Seed site in 1999 because of its high level of crime, blight, and poverty. According to the U.S. Census (2000), more than 50 percent of the neighborhood's population receives some type of governmental subsidy, and 34 percent of the households are headed by single female parents. In 1999, Sunnyside had a crime rate 12 percent above what the Flagstaff Police Department considered the "norm." Now, after 7 years of Weed and Seed, the crime rate in Sunnyside is approximately 2 percent above the norm.

The newer Weed and Seed site, Southside, received its Official Recognition in 2004. As the oldest continuously occupied neighborhood in Flagstaff, it has historically been considered the "rough" side of the railroad tracks that divide Flagstaff in half and is still considered the poor part of town. According to economic statistics from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the mean income for a family of four in Flagstaff is $39,000, but for Southside it is $18,000, which means that many families in that neighborhood live well below poverty income levels. Not surprisingly, Southside mirrors Sunnyside in its unusually high crime rates.

The response to the job fair has been very positive in both neighborhoods. The hope is that including Genisis-X in its Weed and Seed strategy will help Southside be as successful in reducing its crime rate as Sunnyside has been.

For more information, contact:
Manuel Benavidez, Genisis-X Program Manager
2304 North Third Street
Flagstaff, AZ 86004

Sunnyside Weed and Seed Cosponsors First Job Fair at County Jail

Addressing Prisoner Reentry