Changing Minds and Lives Through Policy

Steve Kaiser
Founder of Arizona Prosperity Project
Changing Minds and
Lives Through Policy
Steve Kaiser
Founder of Arizona Prosperity Project

Driven by a passion for policy, former Arizona State Senator Steve Kaiser has turned his attention to empowering fellow lawmakers to embrace Fair Chance hiring.

Earlier this year, Steve Kaiser resigned his post as a state senator to focus on his nonprofit, the Arizona Prosperity Project. Through education and advocacy, the initiative supports policies and candidates dedicated to issues like affordable housing, criminal justice reform, and fair chance hiring.

Time in the state senate provided Steve with a closer view into some of the challenges facing his constituents, including barriers to reentering the workforce after incarceration. “Some lawmakers feel like being tough on crime means you have to be tough on the individual for the rest of their life,” Steve said. “I don’t believe that. If somebody has served their time, should they continue to get punished or should we give them a fair chance at employment and starting over?”

The Arizona Prosperity Project’s work appeals to a sense of collective humanity. “The biggest misconception is that your previous history will dictate your future behavior,” Steve reflected. “But that’s forgetting a beautiful aspect of human nature: that we can adapt, change, and learn.”

The biggest misconception is that a person’s past mistake should define and dictate the possibilities of their future.

When engaging with policymakers, Steve emphasizes the more pragmatic benefits of Fair Chance hiring. “We want folks out here productive and working,” he explained. “If they’re not able to do that because we’re hamstringing their ability to access livable wage jobs and the middle class economy, then in effect, we’re denying people access to the very fundamental things we all need to survive and thrive in American society.  These barriers perpetuate poverty, reduce tax revenue, and compromise public safety as people struggle to meet basic income and housing needs.”

Those are the types of tangible negative impacts Steve believes will change the minds of policymakers, and in turn, the lives of everyday Arizonans. “Lawmakers need to step out and challenge other lawmakers that are having a harder time understanding why this is important,” he said. “Then you start getting natural buy-in, you start changing the culture and the tide.”