Like any other career day, about two dozen representatives from roofing and masonry jobs, to jobs in the auto and food industries came out to pass on information. You also have in that number different agencies helping with social security and birth certificate applications and resumes.
But a career fair inside the Northern State Prison is something prison representatives say hasn’t been done in a male prison in New Jersey in close to a decade.
Over 100 inmates were inside the room, all within about a year of being done with their sentences.
“I just wanted to come down and make sure that I got my face out there and took advantage of whatever opportunities were there,” said one inmate who’s been incarcerated at Northern State for over 11 years.
His biggest fear about when he’s released in a few weeks is not staying true to himself because he says his true self is not this.
“Gaining employment is one of the most fundamental things. The recidivism rate is crazy and one of the reasons why it’s crazy is because we can’t find a way to take care of ourselves,” he said.
Nationally, one government study found 76.6 percent of people who are released from prison are arrested for a new crime within five years. Those numbers tend to drop when inmates are given help finding housing and jobs and given counseling.
” Absolutely, [people have a stigma in hiring someone who’s been in prison]. Absolutely, especially me, because I’ve been arrested for conspiracy to commit murder and I know I don’t plan on not disclosing that if a question is presented to me because I know I have changed. But I know people’s perception of what I may have done in the past will be against what I can possibly do in the future,” said one inmate.
In the room, he’s able to meet with people who will look to the future instead of the past.
“What we do is we distribute produce and we distribute meats to Shop Rite … We’re looking for maybe 50 to 75 more people,” said Rocco Giordano, logistics manager at Wakefern Food Corporation.
Giordano thinks people deserve a second chance.
“They’re some of our best people. The guys from the halfway house come to work every day. They’re our highest producers. We’ve had about seven of those guys promoted into management,” said Giordano
“My hope today was that all New Jersey businesses hire one ex-offender, give one guy or give one gal a chance as a human being and you can transform their lives,” said NJ Reentry Corporation Chairman and former Gov. Jim McGreevey.
One man said he’s been in and out of prison for about 34 years. It all started when he wanted to buy more drugs to fuel his heroin addiction, so he committed armed robbery. He’ll be released in about eight months.
“I need all of that because I want to be able to help my family as soon as I go home,” he said.
He says he wants to learn, he wants to work, he wants this time to be the last.