CITY OF BRIDGEPORT TO OPEN OFFICE OF 2nd CHANCE INITIATIVES, INVESTING $50,000 IN CHALLENGE GRANT TO PRIVATE SECTOR TO SUPPORT HIRING OF FORMERLY INCARCERATED PERSONS
for Immediate Release
“Bridgeport is a 2nd chance city – nobody knows that better than me,” said Mayor Joe Ganim. “We estimate that there are 1100 people every year who come back to Bridgeport from being incarcerated who are looking for opportunities to get back into society. It’s no secret that I am one of those individuals. It’s great to have opportunities, but what people really want is an opportunity for a job, make a living and support their families. And in order to do that, you need partnerships with business. I’ve asked the city council to support a budget transfer of $50,000 in the form of a challenge grant that we’ll use in partnership with the nonprofit community and our private sector partners to leverage millions of dollars in grants to put in place a comprehensive 2nd chance program in Bridgeport. Our goal is to reduce employment barriers for ex-offenders who are willing to step up to the challenge and who are ready to work, who only need a fair chance at a job. We know that nationally feelings are changing on this issue, but we have an obligation on the local level now to step up and take the lead.”
The pool of funds created by the city’s challenge grant investment with support from the private sector, state and federal governments, and foundations is designed to mitigate the risk private sector employers may perceive hiring an ex offender. The funds would be used to provide training and preparation for the ex-offender to be ‘job-ready’ and potentially fund the first three months of that individual’s pay. Essentially, the employer would get a qualified individual to work for them at no cost for a trial period of 90 days. Then if the business wants to hire that person, they can do so with working knowledge of that individual in a professional capacity. This encourages businesses to hire ex-offenders, and it is way local businesses can find qualified, productive employees who need a fair chance at a job and often face rejection.
Mayor Ganim, who was himself incarcerated for seven years on federal felony convictions, also reflected on the challenges facing those returning to their community from prison.
“I found that after being away – locked up – coming back, with all the benefits that I have of a strong, huge family that is not exactly poor – of a professional career, knowledge and education. That even for me the challenges – although maybe more subtle than others had faced – were there nonetheless,” said Mayor Ganim. “I had opportunities from close friends and family. I had individual businessmen that stepped up and overlooked what might have been the worst of thoughts and said ‘Hey, Joe – you want an opportunity?’ I also had the flip side of that. I had rejection on my attempt to enter back into my educated career as a lawyer. I went through a long process and was told sorry, but your answer is no. It was a difficult dilemma because working in the legal system my whole life prior to being mayor I had been taught that while there was an element of punishment and deterrence with incarceration, there was also supposed to be an element of rehabilitation and redemption in the system. It is our job to break down the stigma and barriers for those of us in the ex-offender population however we can. It is good for business and ultimately it helps our community.”
Nonprofit organizations working with the city of Bridgeport and Mayor Ganim’s office to apply for more than $8,000,000 in federal grants to assist with re-entry include The Workplace and Career Resources. These organizations and the city are also working together with an umbrella organization called the Bridgeport Re-Entry Collaborative consisting of dozens of community and faith-based social service organizations who help the formerly incarcerated.
Director of Communications
Senior Advisor for Public Policy
City of Bridgeport