HACKENSACK, NJ -- Dozens gathered on Hudson Street Friday morning at the Grand Opening of a new employment training center for recently released prisoners hoping to start on the path toward a new life. Operated by the New Jersey Reentry Corporation, a nonprofit organization which aids former criminals as they assimilate back into society, the center joins existing NJRC locations in Jersey City, Newark, Toms River, Paterson, and Kearny. Last week, the center opened a new site in Elizabeth. NJRC is championed by former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey and its work has resulted in second chances for hundreds of people throughout the state.
NJRC clients receive assessments by licensed social workers and receive help obtaining and maintaining employment through training, contacts with employers and unions, education on available benefits and services, computer training and online employment search, network building workshops, adult basic education tests, like skills training and financial literacy.
Client Kedar Hall spoke about his time served in Hudson County Correctional Facility and how incorrect medication amounts for his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) led to further health complications, which could have caused blindness. After sharing his story with McGreevey, who was visiting the prison as a spiritual advisor, Hall said McGreevey took the glasses off his face and gave them to him until he could get a better pair and encouraged him to seek out NJRC upon his release, which he did.
“It’s not a one-time thing,” Hall said. “When you’re in it, you’re in it for life. And I still have the same job they helped me find.”
Another client, Giovanni Paz spoke about NJRC getting him back on his feet after serving time as well. “Reentry really does help,” he said. “I needed it. I’d been in a struggle for three years but they helped me out with everything I needed. I’m proud to say that I have a job. I’m proud to say that I have health insurance. I hadn’t been to see a doctor in 12 years.”
County Executive James Tedesco was on hand for the event as well.
“I’m so proud that Bergen County is one of the counties in this program,” he said. “When Jim McGreevey came to us and told us what it was about, we knew it was the right thing to do and one day, we had to make it work. Today is that day.”
Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino also stressed the impact the program has on the lives of former prisoners. “We need to give these people a fighting chance."
Hackensack Deputy Mayor Dave Sims said, "This is a great way to make sure people who have paid their dues can rejoin society."
McGreevey added that the recidivism rate of NJRC clients is less than 20 percent and over 60 percent are employed. “As someone who was blessed with a second chance in my life, I’m proud that they are able to get a second chance at life, too,” McGreevey said.