Growing Opportunities Means Growing Businesses

by Hannah White

This April marks the six-year anniversary of Second Chance Month in Arizona. Second Chance Month represents just that — a chance for people to be connected with opportunities and much-needed resources to successfully reintegrate into their communities after returning from prison or jail. 

Second Chance Month is a nationwide endeavor to acknowledge and spread awareness of the consequences of incarceration. It is also a celebration of initiatives taken by state governments and local reentry organizations, as well as the successes of returning citizens.

Incarceration is an issue with direct negative impacts on individuals, families and communities. 

Nearly all (around 95%) ( currently incarcerated people will one day return to their communities. Reintegrating into one’s community after incarceration is a complex and dynamic process with economic, legal, social and individual challenges. Limited access to reliable transportation, stable housing, education opportunities and quality healthcare, as well as stigma and discrimination, are just some of the many barriers faced by formerly incarcerated people.

Finding and maintaining stable employment is a particularly salient challenge for people returning to their communities. In 2018, formerly incarcerated people had an unemployment rate of 27% ( — higher than that of the Great Depression. About 60% ( of people are without jobs four years after their release. Those who do become employed after four years earn only 84 cents for every dollar of the median U.S. wage (

For justice-involved individuals, the label of a criminal record is associated with stigma and perceived dangerousness that drastically reduces their chances of getting hired. 

Yet, research consistently finds that people with criminal records often have higher retention rates, greater loyalty, and overall better job performance ( Recognizing these benefits, many companies and even the U.S. military are adopting fair chance policies ( to expand employment opportunities for people with records. 

State governments are also increasingly working toward reforming the reentry landscape.

In 2021, Arizona passed eight state laws ( for reentry reform, including broad record clearing, expanded occupational licensing, judicial “second chance” certificates, repealing suspension of driver’s licenses for those who fail to pay, and reclassifying some felonies as misdemeanors. Newly elected Arizona Governor Katies Hobbs is also investing in initiatives to cut wasteful spending and reform the Arizona correctional system (, including the creation of a prison oversight commission (

With support from the Arizona Governor’s Office, the Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA) launched the Growing Opportunities (GO) program, a training and mentorship program for justice-impacted individuals looking to prepare for and find meaningful employment or pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions, all of which supports Governor Hobbs and her policy goals. As part of the program, aspiring entrepreneurs are paired with expert business mentors who guide and support them in becoming small business or nonprofit/social business owners. The GO program also provides resources to help individuals navigate the reintegration process and become productive, contributing members of their communities.

Join us this April for Second Chance Month as ASBA celebrates the dedication and success of the justice-impacted individuals working toward and achieving their goals through the GO program. 

If you would like to learn more about the GO program, please visit

Hannah White is the Program Manager at Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA).

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