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Program in Newport News gives former inmates a second chance

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Posted at 3:27 PM, Aug 09, 2021

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - As our country deals with a shortage of employees, the Newport News Sheriff’s Office and the Newport News Public Works Department are developing an innovative partnership. It’s called the Re-entry Program, and it's for men and women who have been in the criminal justice system and are ready to become productive members of society.

According to the sheriff's office, at least 90 days prior to release, inmates are asked if they’d like to participate.

“That’s the entire goal is to reduce recidivism, allow and help and return the citizens to become productive citizens,” explained Tracy Hayes, executive director for Community Outreach and Programs for the Newport News Sheriff’s Office.

Frank James, Newport News Public Works director, says, “It has worked out perfectly.”

James tells News 3 there is a vetting process and that they want people with some basic skills. He says from there, they can train them so they can work their way into other positions. For example, if someone has a commercial driver’s license, they can drive a truck or other construction equipment. A regular driver’s license is required and usually, one would start in a construction maintenance position doing a job like digging for pipeline work or picking up litter.

Tyrone Smith says he served 10 years for a drug charge and is happy to come to work with Public Works. He even said the summer heat does not bother him.

“I love it,” exclaimed Smith. “It’s a different lifestyle than what I used to live.”

Smith added that he took quite a few odd jobs before applying with Public Works.

“Upon being released, I went down some roads, but I never gave up. You can’t give up,” Smith said. “You might not get the job you want, but you can get a job. It might not be with the city. It might not be with one of these major factories, but you can get a job if you want a job.”

The Newport News Sheriff’s Office says the re-entry team gives those involved in the criminal justice system assistance with resumes, mock interviews, clothing, application assistance and transportation to and from work. The candidates apply just like anyone else and are not guaranteed a position.

Related: Program for Norfolk inmates changes lives by giving education, training, pay while incarcerated

“We want to be motivators, mentors and we want to instill confidence in them,” James explained. “I think what we’re trying to do with this partnership is a great steppingstone to making that happen because they want to be successful and we want them to be successful.”

For more information on the Re-entry Program, click here.

For a list of jobs posted through the City of Newport News, click here.