PATERSON, NJ- Renewing a driver’s license, obtaining a new birth certificate, or competing in a job search are all common tasks that can be complicated by red tape and bureaucracy on the best of days. Throw past transgressions that led to incarceration into the mix and it becomes understandable why so many ex-offenders end up jobless, hopeless, and in a recurring pattern of committing crimes and spending time back in prison.
That pattern is one that the New Jersey Reentry Corporation (NJRC) is trying to break in cities across New Jersey, and part an effort that linked them with several other organizations at the Masonic Temple on Monday.
Calling it a ‘day of service,’ Mayor Andre Sayegh said the idea to bring the groups together on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day came several weeks ago when he attended the ribbon cutting of a new business in the city’s 4th Ward. Several patrons approached him for assistance, he said, with the most common question being “how can you help me get my life right.”
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Among the residents who braved the cold to attend the event was Stacy Greene. Born and raised in Paterson, Greene is already an NJRC success story she shared. While she worked a good job previously she wasn’t happy, she reflected, before sharing that after she ran afoul of the law, and, even though it was her first time getting in trouble, she had little confidence that she’d be able to get back in the workforce.
That changed after getting herself enrolled in the NJRC program and receiving help with resume building and her interview skills, which eventually led to a good paying job in a warehouse. After six months the job was made permanent, and a week later, after some additional training, Greene was promoted to a forklift driver with all of the relevant certifications.
A mother of two, including one minor, Greene shared proudly that the job offers generous health insurance as well as a 401k retirement plan.
Greene’s is the sort of success that the NJRC works for, the program’s Paterson director Jada Fulmore would say. “We treat everyone with love, like human beings, because we all make mistakes,” she added offering that employment is their goal for every person that steps through their doors.
“Whether you were detained for just a few hours, were incarcerated 30 years ago, or served 20 years in prison and just got out yesterday,” Fulmore added, the NJRC is a “support system” to help anyone who needs it to get back into living as productive members of the community.
Joining the NJRC on Monday were a variety of other service providers including the Passaic County One Stop Center, Everlasting Life Foundation Ministry, NJ Build, The Good Shepherd Mission, the Paterson Police Department, and the Fly Women’s Network (FLY).
One of the newer organizations on the scene in Paterson, FLY is seeking to reduce recidivism by providing temporary housing to formerly incarcerated women, teaching them how to “love themselves” while also helping them overcome trauma so that they can be healed “spiritually, physically, and mentally.”
Like Greene, brothers Bernard and Noble Roberson have made mistakes that cost them their freedom and time behind bars, and also like Greene, both are trying to turn their lives around the with the assistance of the NJRC.
Bernard, 30, came upon the program after his second incarceration for a drugs offense. Understanding that his “troubled history” would make getting back into the job market difficult,the older of the two men also knows he is “too old for street life,” and benefitted from the reentry program through their support in obtaining a driver’s licence, as well as financial support in the form of bus fair to and from a construction job he found with their assistance.
Just four days out jail, Noble, 26, hopes to find similar success and “stability” in his life and believes the NJRC will help by moving him forward in a process of completing job applications that too often don’t move anywhere.
Asked why it’s so prevalent for formerly incarcerated individuals to end up back on the wrong side of the law Bernard offered that too often people see it as “easier to go out and sell drugs then to try to get out of that mindset.” However, he recognizes,“there’s no long term success in doing illegal things,” before sharing his hope that he’ll be able to get his eight month old daughter to live with him. “That’s my baby,” he said.
Making the most of a second, or third, chance isn’t always easy, Bernard acknowledged, “ but if your not willing to work for it what’s the point?”
“We’re here to stay and we’re here to help,” Sayegh pledged before offering his hope that the Monday outreach event would become one of many to be held to support Paterson residents. “This is what One Paterson is supposed to be. Unity.”
TAPinto Paterson also beleives everyone deserves a second chance, that's why we were proud to spend part of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with the New Jersey Reentry Corporation. Follow us on Facebook and sign up for TAPinto Paterson E-News alerts to be the first to read more about their efforts, as well as those of the other participating organizations, to help Paterson residents succeed.
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