CT Insider. By Michael P. Mayko Oct. 20, 2020
When Jean Maignan was released from prison eight years ago, fatherhood was the last thing on his mind. He was more focused on getting back to work and staying out of trouble. But in the next eight years, the children started coming — five in all, ranging from age 2 to 6.
“I grew up without a father in my life,” Maignan said. “I did not want that to happen to my kids.”
So he became part of Career Resources’ Fathers for Life program.
“I learned what my rights as a parent are. I am still learning what it takes to be a father,” Miagnan said. “And that education is not over by any means.”
Early next year Career Resources will be augmenting that program with one involving the children of incarcerated parents and The WorkPlace, an employment agency in Bridgeport, will be increasing their efforts to help inmates designated for release begin their job search efforts while in prison.
That’s thanks to two grants: one for $680,000 to the Mayor’s Initiative for Re-Entry Affairs (MIRA), which will work with Career Resources, and another for $750,000 to The WorkPlace, which will help them provide a second chance to another 175 individuals.
On Tuesday, Mayor Joseph Ganim and Councilman Ernest Newton, both convicted felons who left children behind while incarcerated, joined with U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, Earl Bloodworth of MIRA, Scott Wilderman of Career Resources and Joseph Carbone of The WorkPlace to announce the grants, which will help a portion of the 1,000 annually released inmates from Bridgeport reintegrate to society.
“You ought to be moved by the notion we are a big enough people to take folks that have made mistakes, who have made bad choices and paid the price for that … to say we’re going to help you get back on your feet,” Himes told those gathered outside the Margaret Morton Government Building on Broad Street. “Even if that doesn’t move your heart — and it should because it’s a tribute to who we are as a community and a country — it costs tens of thousands of dollars each year to incarcerate an individual.”
He said the $1.43 million will be paid back quickly by providing a job to recently released inmates “and making them not just productive but making them taxpayers” as opposed to seeing them end up back in prison.
One grant for $680,000 will go to MIRA, which will work with Career Resources in developing Bridgeport Families First.
“The program will served 125 incarcerated or formerly-incarcerated parents over the course of the grant, as well as their minor children and the children’s non-offending parents,” Wilderman said.
He said Career Resources will provide fatherhood group sessions, once a month transportation for families to correctional institutions and as designate two of its halfway houses as “parent houses,” serving recently released inmates with minor children.
Just two weeks ago a client, who gave his name only as Richard, was released into one of the Clinton Avenue halfway homes after spending five and a half years in prison on a drug-related conviction.
He admits missing a good part of helping his now teenage son grow up.
“It was tough,” he said.
“You go through so much while in prison. Then you lose your family,” said Richard, who is divorced. “I just started speaking with my son again. A friend gave me a cell phone and we text.”
Now he said its all about priorities.
At the Career Resources halfway house he has access to a computer so he is searching for jobs online. He has some training as an electrician so he hopes to get into a union and complete his apprenticeship.
“I’ve got a long lists of goals and these can be overwhelming,” Richard said.
So he works with his counselor on prioritizing things: “You just have to work on those you can complete today and put off others until tomorrow.”
Wilderman said Career Resources also will use the grant money to insure that minor children of an incarcerated parent are given priority to participate in the Foster Parents mentorship program. The grant also will provide marriage and family therapists.
“(Career Resources) will maintain client files and report outcomes to the city on schedule,” Wilderman said. “The city will monitor the program for compliance, review case files and outcomes regularly and report performance data to the (state) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.”
The second grant will provide $750,000 — or $250,000 for each of the next three years — to The WorkPlace. The money will help 175 recently released inmates during that period find work and advance in their careers, as well as steer them to community resources for needed services.
“We will be reaching out to individuals that the Correctional Department has identified for us while they are still in custody,” said Tom Long, a senior vice president at The WorkPlace. “While they are incarcerated we’ll get them linked to the services they will need and get them prepared to begin a job search.”
While the staff has yet to be hired for the program, Long envisions it will involve quarterly classes of 15 individuals who will go through a wellness program, a life skills boot camp, financial planning and determine their best job fit.
“If we have someone who want to be a truck driver, we will discuss the requirements, what it takes to be a truck driver and if that’s a good choice help them get the training they would need,” he said.
But it won’t stop there, said Joseph Carbone, who heads The WorkPlace.
“That may be a success but if we don’t continue to work with that person so that their skills grow and their expectations of themselves grow then we’re not doing our job,” he said. “We can say to those who are coming to us for the service.‘We got your back. … We got the resources and the talent to keep you connected for as long as it takes not just to get a job but to get a career and a proved Second Chance on Life.’”