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Former Inmate Stays Employed, Thanks To 'Re-Entry' Program

(CBS) -- It's not the place you think ex-offenders will get a second chance. But for one former inmate, the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse has not only given him a second chance at life – it's given him a new beginning.

CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot reports.

At age 54, James Howze has spent nearly a decade of his life in and out of state and federal prisons, for committing bank fraud and bank robbery. He had one goal: feeding his 30-year-long drug addiction.

"Staying clean is not just abstaining from drugs. It's a mindset," he says. "I was determined to have a second chance."

Howze works as a supply clerk at the Dirksen federal building in the South Loop. He's in the James B. Moran Second Chance Re-entry Program, which is named for the late U.S. District Court judge. It provides Howze with mentoring and coaching for his new job and counseling and intense supervision to keep his life on track.

Chief Judge Ruben Castillo says employment is an important component to keeping former inmates from going back to prison.

"All the studies show, that employment reduces recidivism by 50 percent. It gives you some respect. You can go to your family members and be a provider again," Castillo says.

Says Howze: "I am extremely grateful."

Judge Castillo says he would like 100 Chicago companies to step up and follow the court's example. Right now, he has 12 former inmates qualified to work.


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