Proposed re-entry center location causing controversy in South Phoenix

Plans for a prison employment center and housing for former inmates have some people in a South Phoenix neighborhood voicing concerns.

Plans for the center has been in the works for months. Now, however, some city leaders and business owners are speaking out about the proposal.

There are already several jails near 35th Avenue and Durango, the area where the large re-entry center is planned to open. Lawmakers and residents said South Phoenix has had enough, and they don't want to be the dumping ground for correctional facilities.

"The neighborhood itself has gone downhill, and we don't need more things to happen to push us down further," said Dave Alden, who lives in South Phoenix.

Alden's family has lived in a South Phoenix neighborhood since 1969. Since then, a lot has changed, and Alden said he no longer feels safe standing outside his own home.

"I mean, what can you say?" said Alden. "35th Avenue and Buckeye is not a good area of town, but we don't need to be stomped further down, because we're close to the jail."

At the State Capitol, leaders called on Gov. Doug Ducey to pick another location for the large center, which will house a prison employment center to house former inmates, adding more than 300 new beds to an area which is already crowded with jails.

Residents in North Phoenix protested when a re-entry center opened there last year. That center is going to be part of the South Phoenix location.

"My question is: does the Governor value North Phoenix voices more than the people standing with me today and standing behind me?" said State Rep. Reginald Bolding, a Democratic lawmaker who represents District 27, which covers South Phoenix.

So far, the Durango location is just a proposal. Residents said they fully support the re-entry program and giving ex-convicts second chances, and suggest Gov. Ducey to consider opening the center at the old Tent City location, away from residential neighborhoods.