An Idaho Transit System Provides Second-Chance Employment for Former Felons

  • Author: Sage Kashner
  • Date: November 21, 2023

Public transportation, along with many other professions, is experiencing a shortage of qualified workers. According to a recent study published in March by the American Public Transportation Association, “96 percent of agencies surveyed reported experiencing a workforce shortage, 84 percent of which said the shortage affects their ability to provide service.”

One transit system in Blaine County, Idaho, has taken a unique approach to addressing its driver shortage: hiring from a halfway house for people who have recently been released from prison.

Kim MacPherson, the Director of Communications for Mountain Rides, said the idea for this new hiring practice germinated in a workshop sponsored by the  Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) in 2021. Presenters in that workshop spoke of hiring drivers from among people needing a second chance, such as those putting their life back together after leaving prison.

Obstacles for Felons

It is often difficult for people who have served time in prison to get jobs once they are released. A 2022 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics showed “The overall employment rate over four years after the study population was released hovered between 34.9% and 37.9% — in other words, about two-thirds of the population were jobless at any given time,”

According to the Brookings Institution, “Having a job, however, has been shown to reduce recidivism, and individuals are less likely to commit crimes when they have stable, full-time employment.”

Mountain Ride’s Success Stories

MacPherson was inspired by the CTAA workshop. She took the idea home to Idaho and got in touch with Sonya Verlander. Verlander runs Second Chance Living homes where recently released felons can live and access a support system while they get back on their feet. MacPherson asked Wilander if she had any residents who would like to work at Mountain Rides and Verlander suggested Corey.

Corey could not immediately begin driving at Mountain Rides: the agency was so short on drivers that it could not spare somebody to train him. While waiting for his training, Corey worked completing whatever tasks MacPherson gave him: putting up bus signs, working on the computers, and generally helped around the station. “We kept him busy because we wanted him to stay with us. We wanted him to be employed here,” MacPherson said.

Corey has thrived at Mountain Rides. He says the structure of the job and having people that believe in him has made all the difference. He enjoys the actual driving too. “I like this because you’re out meeting the public, you’re out meeting people, you get to make friends on the bus, you get to meet regulars,” he told me. Eventually, though, he got trained and became a sorely needed driver for Mountain Rides.

Tim is the second person MacPherson has found through Second Chance Living. When Tim got out of prison, he was hoping that he could make a difference in the community, whether that was by volunteering in a library or working at a food pantry. Instead, he found Mountain Rides and has been working in their ADA paratransit program, picking people up and taking them to doctor’s appointments and to the grocery store. He says they are all very nice, but most of all, he’s glad that he is giving back to the community. “I’m involved in the community, and nobody’s judging me for my past,” he said.

For more information email Kim MacPherson at


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