Mayor Joseph P. Ganim
For Immediate Release For More Information:
August 8, 2016 Av Harris (203) 814-7992
Mayor Ganim, Bridgeport Area Businesses, Nonprofits and Former NBA Star Charles Smith Release Details of Mayor’s Initiative on Reentry Affairs
Mayor to Open Office to Connect Ex-Offenders with Services, Community Resources Educational Opportunities and Employment
Bridgeport, CT – Mayor Joe Ganim today joined Bridgeport area businesses and nonprofit organizations as well as former NBA star Charles Smith to release details of the Mayor’s Initiative on Reentry Affairs (MIRA), a comprehensive program to connect ex-offenders with community resources and potential jobs. Coordinating the program from a new office in Bridgeport city government will be Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kimberly Staley, who will supervise a corps of volunteers to assess the needs and risk of formerly incarcerated individuals and make referrals to the appropriate organizations who can connect them with services and/or employers. Mayor Ganim launched his 2nd chance initiative in June with a group of local businesses who pledged to give citizens with a past conviction in their background a fair chance at employment.
“We have more than 1,000 men and women coming back to Bridgeport every year from prison, and reenrty is a tough adjustment,” said Mayor Ganim, “These individuals have paid their debt to society and deserve every opportunity to become contributing members of the community. Synthesizing re-entry services within the city of Bridgeport can help individuals avoid re-incarceration or re-arrest, and turn into real success stories for their families and the entire city by starting a new career.”
Assistant Chief Admintrative Officer, Kim Staley said, “We are united behind supporting those reentering society from incarceration and their familes acheive success, which we know only makes our whole community stronger. I am so thankful for all the partners who are all working hard to ensure that those coming out of prison get a real 2nd chance to get things right for themselves and their families. We have people volunteering their time, local business and nonprofits who have come on board and what they all have in common is passion understanding and zeal. This comprehensive approach will make sure anyone having trouble readjusting to the world outside of prison get treatment and counseling if needed, professional support and development, and also a referral to an employer.”
Former NBA star Charles Smith, a native of Bridgeport, launched his own program, entitled “Rebounding for Life” to help formerly incarcerated men and women be ready to enter the labor force. Smith said, “There is so much work to be done to prepare men and women who’ve done time in prison for the rigors of a professional environment and all the adversity they will face on the outside. We focus on mental and physical preparedness, but often times people need to learn professional etiquette – things as simple as showing up on time and appropriate dress that many of us would take for granted. There are many men and women with a felony in their past who need employment, and there are many more who may not be job ready. Our goal is to make as many ex-offenders as possible take pride in themselves, set and achieve goals so they can be ready when speaking to an employer about being hired.”
The Mayor’s Initiative on Reentry Affairs (MIRA) was created to connect returning citizens to community resources, wraparound services and employment & educational opportunities utilizing a comprehensive holistic community-based approach. The approximately 8,500 ex-offenders living in the city of Bridgeport represent 19% of the total population in the city in need of employment. Before an ex-offender can get or hold a job, however, sometimes that person needs mental health services, education assistance and housing services – services the city can help connect an individual to. MIRA will play a vital role in creating a strong framework to decrease recidivism by supporting collaborative partnerships for citizens returning to the Bridgeport community.
The MIRA will serve three major roles within the City of Bridgeport (1) Direct Support Services (2) Coordination of city-wide re-entry services (3) Service Referrals. Details for each focus area are included:
- Direct Support Service
- MIRA will outreach to incarcerated persons scheduled to be released to the City of Bridgeport approximately 90 days prior to release.
- MIRA staff will provide resource packets and/or other materials necessary for community re-engagement.
- The MIRA will conduct need assessments that will include but not be limited to: vocational interests, educational aptitude, criminal history, spiritual needs, substance abuse history, mental health needs, and mother- and/or fatherhood training, how to be a better son or sibling, basic identification needs, etc.Given an initial assessment MIRA staff will determine appropriate levels of support needed.
- As needed, individuals will be issued a city of Bridgeport identification card.
- Each individual will receive weekly contact for ninety days.The contact will be focused on individual needs as determined by the initial intake.In addition, BORA will follow-up and track participant outcomes through partnering agencies for 90 days after program conclusion.
- In addition to individual communication, the MIRA staff will facilitate monthly support group meetings.
- MIRA will serve as a portal for community service volunteer opportunities for returning citizens.
- Convene peer support groups to occur weekly or bi-weekly and incorporate visual media, guest speakers, etc.
- Coordination of City-Wide Re-Entry Services/Second Chance Opportunities
The MIRA staff will create an online directory of all Second Chance related programs and services within the City and will disseminate the information to the appropriate stakeholders.
- Staff will attend all scheduled Bridgeport Re-Entry Roundtable Meetings.
- MIRA staff will host, as often as necessary, Second Chance/Re-Entry summits, forums, etc with area businesses, educational institutions, and/or other agencies of interest.
- Offer local, state and federal level advocacy to advance policy that will increase opportunities in the areas of employment, housing and legal services.
- Advisory committee comprised of multi-sector professionals who will provide strategic guidance and opportunity development (monthly meetings).
- Provide internship opportunities in the BORA office providing administrative assistance and ad hoc.
- Connect participants with partnering agencies, employers and educational institutions to upgrade skills and secure employment.
- Service Referrals
Based on the initial needs assessments, MIRA staff will refer individuals to appropriate community based agencies such as Career Resources, The Workplace, Project Longevity, Family Reentry, Greater Bridgeport Mental Health, Social Services, Street Safe, other employers, etc. who can offer services conducive to the individual’s needs. In addition, city staff will follow-up with all partnering agencies to ensure and track results and outcomes.