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Port Authority second chance job program aims to stop people from going back behind bars

Port Authority helps job seekers with criminal justice system history
Port Authority helps job seekers with criminal justice system history 02:11

NEW YORK -- Getting a job can be difficult for those who have gone through the criminal justice system. Lack of employment can often be a reason people end up back behind bars. 

But there's a new program aiming to change that. 

Andre Parker is a construction spotter supervisor with the Van Wyck Expansion Project. He plays a vital safety role. 

"We're always here to make sure nothing obstructs that guideway," said Parker, referring to the structure that supports the AirTrain system to Kennedy Airport. "This has been a great opportunity all the way around." 

It's a career that seemed out of reach for so long. 

"In 1997, I had a misdemeanor charge and even though I didn't do any significant jail time, that followed me around for years," said Parker. "It's a real struggle getting a job where you can actually live." 

Parker got this opportunity through the Port Authority's second chance employment initiative. It started in 2020 to provide jobs to those who've been involved in the criminal justice system. 

"It is our goal to ensure that not only are we hiring these candidates but that they maintain the employment that will allow them to stay a productive member of the community," said Stacey Gilbert, a senior manager at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. 

"The mission is important because it helps us reduce the recidivism rate, which means most of our candidates will not be returning back to prison or jail," said Denisha Rapier, from the Office of Second Chance Employment, a division of the Council for Airport Opportunity. 

Rapier and others help connect residents to airport employment. So far, 80 people have been placed in jobs, many with Alstom, a mobility company. 

"Our company has a commitment to improving the communities that we serve," said Monique Edwards, a senior project and customer service manager at Alstom. 

Parker said he's not only making a living wage, be he even got a promotion. 

"They call it a second chance program for a reason," said Parker. "It doesn't matter if you fall. It does matter if you get up." 

In 2022, according to New York City data, the recidivism rate for burglary is 25.3 percent, grand theft is 17.9 percent, grand theft auto is 17.7 percent and petit theft is 20.8 percent. 

The Port Authority is looking to expand the program to give more people a second chance. 

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