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Ganim Launches Second Chance Initiative For Ex-offenders

June 11th, 2016 · 33 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Council, News and Events

Mayor Joe Ganim on Friday was joined by city and state lawmakers, business leaders and local nonprofits to announce a Second Chance Society initiative aimed at providing job opportunities to past offenders. The program includes signed pledges by local businesses to give ex-offenders a fair chance at hiring, city seed money of $50,000 and potential foundation matches to create a pool of funds to encourage businesses to hire ex-offenders with a promise of permanent employment.

State Senator Marilyn Moore support second chance initiative.

State Senator Marilyn Moore, at podium, supports second chance initiative.

The University of Bridgeport, Housatonic Community College, Bridgeport Bluefish, Webster Bank Arena and local construction companies are among those who will participate, according to city officials.

In 2015 Ganim made a historic comeback to public office following his 2003 conviction on federal corruption charges. Ganim connected with many voters on a second-chance message, including past offenders who volunteered for his campaign and voted for him over incumbent Bill Finch in a Democratic primary on his way to a general election win.

Ganim is expected to hire a staffer to oversee the Second Chance Society program.

The state of Connecticut has a new law that requires application focus on qualifications for the job before questions can be asked about background. See attached video above and additional info below from city Communications Director Av Harris.

Mayor Joe Ganim today joined Bridgeport area businesses and nonprofits to launch the first steps of a major 2nd chance society initiative whose goal ultimately is to encourage and incentivize the private sector hiring of ex-offenders who may have a criminal record from their past. At least a dozen Bridgeport area businesses gathered with Mayor Ganim, state lawmakers and Bridgeport City Councilors to sign a “Fair Chance Pledge” to give individuals re-entering society from incarceration a fair chance at being hired. Specifically, Mayor Ganim is proposing a $50,000 budget transfer in the form of a challenge grant to the private sector to leverage the investment with foundational support and funds from federal and state government. The goal is to fund an initiative that would connect employers with qualified and prepared individuals who may have a felony conviction in their background, and support the hiring of these individuals.

“Bridgeport is a 2nd chance city–nobody knows that better than me,” said Mayor Joe Ganim. “We estimate that there are 1100 people every year who come back to Bridgeport from being incarcerated who are looking for opportunities to get back into society. It’s no secret that I am one of those individuals. It’s great to have opportunities, but what people really want is an opportunity for a job, make a living and support their families. And in order to do that, you need partnerships with business. I’ve asked the city council to support a budget transfer of $50,000 in the form of a challenge grant that we’ll use in partnership with the nonprofit community and our private sector partners to leverage millions of dollars in grants to put in place a comprehensive 2nd chance program in Bridgeport. Our goal is to reduce employment barriers for ex-offenders who are willing to step up to the challenge and who are ready to work, who only need a fair chance at a job. We know that nationally feelings are changing on this issue, but we have an obligation on the local level now to step up and take the lead.”

The pool of funds created by the city’s challenge grant investment with support from the private sector, state and federal governments, and foundations is designed to mitigate the risk private sector employers may perceive hiring an ex offender. The funds would be used to provide training and preparation for the ex-offender to be ‘job-ready’ and potentially fund the first three months of that individual’s pay. Essentially, the employer would get a qualified individual to work for them at no cost for a trial period of 90 days. Then if the business wants to hire that person, they can do so with working knowledge of that individual in a professional capacity. This encourages businesses to hire ex-offenders, and it is way local businesses can find qualified, productive employees who need a fair chance at a job and often face rejection.

Mayor Ganim, who was himself incarcerated for seven years on federal felony convictions, also reflected on the challenges facing those returning to their community from prison.

“I found that after being away–locked up–coming back, with all the benefits that I have of a strong, huge family that is not exactly poor–of a professional career, knowledge and education. That even for me the challenges–although maybe more subtle than others had faced–were there nonetheless,” said Mayor Ganim. “I had opportunities from close friends and family. I had individual businessmen that stepped up and overlooked what might have been the worst of thoughts and said ‘Hey, Joe–you want an opportunity?’ I also had the flip side of that. I had rejection on my attempt to enter back into my educated career as a lawyer. I went through a long process and was told sorry, but your answer is no. It was a difficult dilemma because working in the legal system my whole life prior to being mayor I had been taught that while there was an element of punishment and deterrence with incarceration, there was also supposed to be an element of rehabilitation and redemption in the system. It is our job to break down the stigma and barriers for those of us in the ex-offender population however we can. It is good for business and ultimately it helps our community.”

Mayor Ganim’s 2nd Chance Society initiative is receiving broad, bipartisan support as State Senators Marilyn Moore (D-Bridgeport), Ed Gomes (D-Bridgeport), and Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield), attended the news conference announcing the plan as well as State Representatives Charlie Stallworth (D-Bridgeport) and John Shaban (R-Fairfield). Bridgeport City Councilors Denese Taylor-Moe, Mary McBride Lee, Alfredo Castillo and Eneida Martinez were also in attendance. Councilwoman Martinez is also proposing a “ban the box” ordinance for contractors seeking to do business with the city that would remove the question of whether or not the individual vendor was convicted of a felony as part of the application to get a contract with the city.

Nonprofit organizations working with the city of Bridgeport and Mayor Ganim’s office to apply for more than $8,000,000 in federal grants to assist with re-entry include The Workplace and Career Resources. These organizations and the city are also working together with an umbrella organization called the Bridgeport Re-Entry Collaborative consisting of dozens of community and faith-based social service organizations who help the formerly incarcerated.

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33 Comments so far ↓

  • Frank Gyure

    THANK YOU Mayor Ganim for not giving me a second chance. Losing a job makes life difficult and you have to make tough choices about which bills to pay. I kept off paying my car tax and the City of Bridgeport has a wonderful program where they boot and tow your car within 24 hours. Supposedly, my car was auctioned off by Mid-Town Towing TODAY and Charlie Mason got his money. Joe Ganim, the second-chance mayor. Tell me about it.

    • Jennifer Buchanan

      Frank, that just blows. So sorry to hear this.

    • Lisa Parziale

      Frank, that’s awful. There’s no heart or empathy when it comes to money or government.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Frank Gyure, move on to your second chance. I gave you a heads up way before the towing. To be clear I had no knowledge of any plot against you and if there were, I’m sure it didn’t come from the top of city Hall or the BPD. The booting and ticketing is not being done by the private firm. Downtown businesses complained about the ticketing downtown visitors and customers. The Parking authority crew goes all over the city ticketing and booting cars.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      “Bridgeport is a 2nd chance city–nobody knows that better than me,” said Mayor Joe Ganim.””

      Excuse me Joe Ganim, I totally disagree with you on this one. I know that better than you. When I made up my mind to run for City Council in 1994, there was no chance for me. I believe I was the first to be interviewed by Mario Testa before I ran. In that meeting with Americo Santiago present, Mario had a difficult time spitting out his concern and reason for obvious opposition to my potential candidacy. I told him I knew his reason and concern were my convictions. I told him I wasn’t there for his blessing and support, but to let him know I was going to run regardless and I finished with: “The difference between me and everyone else is, they haven’t gotten caught yet!”

      In mid 1999, after waiting almost seven years to land a position, I was approached by Patrick Coyne who asked me if I was interested in a graffiti removal position opening soon. I accepted and I’m grateful for that opportunity as it’s been 17 years since. About a year into my job, Patrick Coyne told me I was being transferred by order of the mayor and I ended up working the midnight shift at the Beardsley Zoo as a Security Guard.

      In November 2007, Bill Finch was elected mayor. Soon after, I started to publicly state my positions, pinions, and facts of what Bill Finch was like and what to expect of him. By March of 2008, it was evident layoffs would occur in the city. I read on the CT Post a Service Assistant Position at the Zoo was one getting cut from funding. I knew it was my position they cut, but I never was a Service Assistant. I checked the difference in pay between both positions and discovered that since the first day I started working at the ZOO, the City had been paying me less than my position called for. The G1 administration wanted to avoid any criticism for hiring a City Councilmen with criminal convictions as a Security Guard. I grievanced the $7,000 the city owed me. Months later, I received a letter in the mail from Labor Relation and in it was a check for $120 and a letter stating I won the grievance and the $120 was for being a Security Guard for 1 month. I never signed off on any decision, the check was direct deposited to my bank account and NAGE failed to take further action. As far as I’m concerned, the City of Bridgeport took food from my children’s table by robbing the Security Guard. This all started during the G1 administration. I’m giving Mayor Joe Ganim a “second chance” to correct a wrong committed by the City of Bridgeport while he was mayor and after leaving office for a total of $6,820. I don’t want or feel entitled to interest, I simply want ju$tice and fairne$$.

  • Donald Day

    The question should also be why is he the Mayor of denying blacks a first chance, like the blacks who were passed over for Chief in the Bridgeport Fire Department. Like the blacks who were passed over as department heads in his new administration. Oh Massa Ganim, you so good to us kneegrows.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Donald Day, wasn’t the next person in line for the Fire Chief position a Puerto Rican?

      • Donald Day

        Joel, the position they put Chief Thode in for a month and a half was held by Manny Firpi, a Puerto Rican who was on that position close to two years. Like the two blacks Battalion Chiefs, Joe Ganim didn’t want a Puerto Rican either.

  • flubadub

    I think Ernie Newton would be a natural for that staffing position.

    • Frank Gyure

      Newton is a multiple-talented individual. He is an expert with waste management, fighting fires, fighting crime, and running the Bridgeport public Library. So talented.

  • Bob Walsh

    Give me an f’n break. On top of his obscene mil rate increase, Mayor Ganim wants to give the BRBC, many of the largest companies in the region, $50,000 of taxpayers money to hire ex-cons. How many ex-cons does the mayor and BRBC think they will help with this money? I’m guessing 50 because they figure an ex-con is worth about $1,000 on the open market.
    My Lord, this is disgusting.
    This sounds like a bribe to me. How pathetic! And the BRBC probably asked for $250k initially to cover administrative costs. If this is Timpanelli’s last act, it would be fitting. It truly shows the greed and carelessness of the members of this organization.

  • Bob Walsh

    Hey Crazy Joe, why didn’t you ask your 20 highest-paid staffers to donate $2,500 each? Do you know how much that would be? $50,000!
    Hey Crazy Joe, why don’t you ask the City Council members to forfeit their $9,000 stipends to fund your idea? Do you know how much that would be? $180,000. Add that to your $50K and we are up to $230K.
    Now Crazy Joe, go to Paul Timpanelli and ask him and the BRBC to match that 10 to 1.
    Now we are talking serious money for a serious problem and not some chump change to give the chumps at the BRBC.

  • Jeff Kohut

    This is a worthy initiative, but with Connecticut being a negative job-growth state and Bridgeport having one of the highest unemployment rates in the economic wasteland that is Connecticut, it seems this will be an exercise in frustration for everyone involved, until 100,000 or so living-wage jobs can be brought to Connecticut’s cities.

    And the city should not be impounding and auctioning the cars of law-abiding residents who have encountered financial difficulties consistent with the negative fortunes of this state and its residents. This is not only cruel and unconscionable, it is abjectly stupid. A person without access to a car in Fairfield County — especially someone who lives in Bridgeport, is going to be economically hobbled and much more likely to become an economic liability to the city and state. Indeed, by subtracting the means for efficient transportation from their economic equation, the likelihood of criminal activity is increased, just as it is when people are rendered homeless, albeit not to the same extreme. Cruel, unconscionable, and abjectly stupid. Just plain wrong in a city with such high unemployment and poverty. Third-world stuff.

    Mayor Ganim: Our tax delinquency policy should be consistent with our basic “second-chance” municipal mentality. This is a distressed city and our government shouldn’t be kicking law-abiding residents when they are down. Such policy is shameful and wrong and must stop. Tax-delinquent residents should at least be given a fair hearing and a chance for tax amnesty per consideration of their circumstances.

  • Quentin Dreher

    Jeff, this is the second time in as many weeks I have agreed with you. I must be getting soft!

  • Phil Smith

    One simple question. Is this initiative in the budget?

    • Lisa Parziale

      Phil, you know it’s not. It’s probably coming from the positions that will be vacated by the employees taking the buy-out. The employees are leaving, but the money for those positions is still in the budget. Wouldn’t you think the money saved by these vacancies, with the exception of a possible few, should be taken from the budget and used toward the deficit?

    • LennieGrimaldi

      They are planning a $50k budget transfer. So the answer is no.

      • Lisa Parziale

        “After July” is what certain people waiting for their just rewards for working the campaign are being told. Watch how many of those buy-out positions are filled by patronage. It boggles my mind to watch while no council member will ask where these savings are and what is the intended use.

      • John Marshall Lee

        Lennie, it is likely more people answer your phone calls at City Hall than answer mine. So if a transfer is planned, from which Department and Line Item will the money come? And is that the form the question will come to the Council with? Finally, if the money comes from the 2016-17 FY budget and comes from a personnel line, is the Mayor ready at this late date to provide a slice of TRANSPARENCY and post an HONEST and accurate list, perhaps as of July 1, 2017 for staffing of ALL City departments funded by taxpayers (local, State and Federal grants too) which would included Grants positions?

        Finch had a chart he showed every year. Ganim2 has not even made that effort. Joe appears to be above it all, “living the dream.” depending on his team, that threatens and demeans, and complements the DTC machine. Trust but verify? How? Ganim could provide answers but he is above that it seems. Time will tell.

      • Phil Smith

        These are the kinds of funding decisions that are made during the budget process, not by undoing the budget and transferring funds for a program that was never discussed, let alone funded.

  • Ron Mackey

    Mayor Ganim, so there should be no problem with those who are felons to be hired by the City.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      The city does hire people with convictions Ron, even firefighters. Heck, there even are those who haven’t gotten caught yet like the ones who where practically emptying the City of Bridgeport supply warehouse.

  • Wingnut

    So I have an education, moral values, was raised in a loving home. Taught to stand up for what I believe in. I know what is right and just. Then you give a convicted felon a job before me! What’s the message to be learned here? GO FUCK YOURSELF!!!

    • John Marshall Lee

      Perhaps, Wingnut, we now know the “convicted felon’s name” and his crime and it was non-violent and (s)he did the required time. In your case we do not know your name (and under the rules of the site that still works even though many of us came into the light to continue the fight for City integrity) and we all can observe that you have active “anger management” issues. You mention learning, but you need to get back to basic and fundamental learning and you are making fun of learning over a lifetime? Time will tell.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Wingnut, I understand your point and frustration. There is also the flip side to your point. How many times have businesses gone under due to a trusted employee with no criminal conviction stealing from his employer? There are many ways to steal like going to work and doing 25% of all the work that can be done and to add injury to theft, take the credit for what coworkers did.

  • Bob Walsh

    Anyone who knows anything about this problem especially with nonviolent expelling knows a common thread is substance abuse issues. The state of Connecticut does very little with proper rehab. And they have been doing less with the current budget crunch. The city of BRIDGEPORT eliminated the only drug counselor the school system had. A low-paying job without a structured program for recovery will solve very few of these problems.
    This is Ganim taking a page from Finch’s playbook where he takes taxpayer dollars and uses them for a PR hit. The $50K is all show and a donation to the BRBC.

  • Robert Teixeira

    First Chance, second chance, ninth chance, what’s the difference? Unless you’re Daniel Boone you need money to survive, period. If you don’t want criminals to commit crimes for their money they’re going to need a job, and unless a criminal is going to work instead of committing crimes for their money, I don’t know what the F%$K you’re talking about people, and if these companies aren’t working directly with the inmates while they’re still incarcerated so they have a Job when they get out, it’s just welfare for these companies. Like people, companies need money to survive too. Or they’re going to end up working for the Welfare Company. Sure they don’t work too hard, but they don’t get a lot either. It’s more about a travesty then the enjoyment of life. Where’s a cop when you need one? Quick someone call a cop I think we all are witnessing a $50,000 crime. I’m coming like a thief in the night or in front of City Hall with news cameras.

  • Local Eyes

    Even BRIDGES get a second chance. Route 8/25 construction underway. See cameras and details here:
    rt8bridgeport.com/livefeed/

  • Mojo

    *** Remember OIB bloggers before going off half cocked! Talk is cheap, especially political talk. ***

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