AZ Common Ground is an organization which had its beginning behind the razor wire of a prison fence. Frantz Beasley, Keith Krenklis, and Rodjay Benford were three inmates who came together to develop a plan to reach out to men and women upon their release to assist them in overcoming the barriers that oftentimes hinder the forward progress of so many. Possessing the unique perspective of being ex-offenders, experiencing the process of re-entry firsthand, and learning to rebuild their own lives after being convicted of numerous felonies, these men came together to form an organization to meet the challenge of an out of control recidivism rate.
With so many being incarcerated in the State of Arizona and so many being released every year, these men discovered that the only effective avenue to engage re-entry is to explore crime prevention methods in our communities. The problem overall was clear when addressing the issue from a holistic standpoint. If communities do not engage collectively (businesses, faith-based organizations, community-based organizations, law enforcement agencies, and the everyday stakeholder), then our prison population will return to areas which are not receiving the necessary services which would otherwise assist in the transition process for the family member returning home.
AZ Common Ground once formed in April of 2010, began the process of working alongside various organizations in the south Phoenix area who were already engaged in, "Changing the Face of Re-entry." Members of the Phoenix Police Department, faith-based organizations such as Kingdom Communities of the Valley, and community-based organizations such as Chicanos por la Causa, were all instrumental in ushering AZCG into a position where they could be involved directly with re-entry, and also have input when discussing the eradication of crime within our communities.
AZ Common Ground began teaching life skills classes in February of 2011. Since that time, AZCG has successfully graduated 224 students and only 7 have reoffended and went back into the prison system. Of the 217 graduates remaining, with the exception of two, all have been either placed in employment or are currently attending vocational training. AZCG is currently receiving daily visits to their office and enrolling new clients every day in their training classes and making resources available to those that truly are in need and are actively attempting to rebuild their lives after a felony conviction.
Arizona Common Ground serves as a catalyst in proactively working with people to prevent crime before it starts by providing youth of incarcerated parents positive alternatives, connecting released inmates with long-term, gainful employment through life skills training; and engaging the community in education to create effective solutions to re-entry.