A new community resource center for returning prison inmates opened in Jersey City on Tuesday to offer employment training, legal help and other services.
The Martin's Place Community Resource Center at Sacred Heart will also provide assistance with job placement, housing referrals and addiction and mental health treatment to ex-offenders from across Hudson County.
"I think this is a radical departure from the traditional CRC,'' said former Gov. Jim McGreevey, who is now executive director of the Jersey City Employment and Training Program. The group will operate the facility along with Integrity House, a nonprofit substance abuse treatment center.
Officials announced Tuesday that McGreevey's group was awarded a $4.2 million contract over three years to operate the facility from the New Jersey State Parole Board. Community Resource Centers provide non-residential court-ordered services like job training. Most are operated by large corrections corporations, Jersey City officials said.
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John Koufos, director of re-entry for McGreevey's organization, said the setup ensures that people can spend more time dealing with their problems and "less time running from building to building to building.''
"It's everything someone would need to get on track,'' he said.
The new facility will be located in the former monastery of Sacred Heart Church. Inmates from the Hudson County Correctional Facility have been working on restoring the neglected space.
Larry Bright, an inmate who was working on the cleanup Tuesday morning, said he'd spent 25 years in various prisons from Florida to New York and was ready to get his life on track.
"Everything that's involved with this has made me finally see the light. I want to give back to the community and be a better person,'' he said.
The facility is expected to serve at least 40 people a week when it begins serving clients in September.