NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— President Biden has declared the month of April as Second Chance Month, a nationwide effort to help former inmates enter the job market.
A local job fair next week hopes to pair employers with formerly incarcerated men and women. It’s aptly called the Second Chance Job Fair.
There are about 4,000 inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. Many of them will never leave the facility, however, reentry inmate programs are in place to insure that those that do leave, never come back.
Deputy Warden Rochelle Ambeau explained, (Reentry court train programs) were designed for guys who had a sentencing, maybe they were facing a bunch of years and they gave them a second chance to finish the program which is roughly two years or more and that’s getting 2 trades and education. Once they do that they go back to court and they re-sentence them to probably parole.”
At the heart of the program are extensive training programs, including certified auto mechanics, carpentry, and welding.
According to lead welding mentor Luther McFarland, “I’m trying to get the guys to understand that there’s a bigger scope in welding. From being a beginning welder to an entrepreneur because the job demand is very large.”
And while training at the prison is top-notch and includes a host of professional certifications, just as important is the soft skill training in order that men who are released can navigate society.
“Our job is to collectively get this guy personally and emotionally,” said lead social mentor Heyward Jones.
One of the many success stories is that of Shermond Esteen, the owner of Nonno’s Restaurant in the Marigny. He spent 20 years at Angola, becoming a baker while incarcerated. Esteen credits the time and training with helping him become successful after coming home.
You can always ponder on the things that didn’t go your way, somebody mistreating you, or somebody putting you in jail as an innocent person or whatever it may be. But when you’re there, you don’t have a choice but to get bitter or better, and I chose to get better,” said Esteen.
Esteen also employs several formerly incarcerated men at the restaurant.
The Second Chance Job Fair is Tuesday, April 18 at Goodwill Industries, 3400 Tulane Ave., from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Prospective employers offering job opportunities can email Peter Pobocik at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kelly Derbigny at email@example.com
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