The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) CEO Alex Wiggins visited the Louisiana State Penitentiary’s Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) and I-CAR Automobile Industry-Based Certification programs (IBC), according to the agency's news release.
The visit comes as the second phase of the part of the agency’s recruitment of bus mechanics and technicians through the agency’s second chance efforts. Last December, the RTA announced a partnership with JOB1 Career Solutions to provide On the Job Training (OTJT) training for non-violent releasing individuals who successfully complete the requirements of the Louisiana State Penitentiary’s IBC programs.
Initially, the RTA will hire bus mechanics and body repair technician trainees, both at $23.67 per hour, up to 40 hours per week for a six-month trial period. After a six-month period, successful participants will transition to permanent employees with the agency.
“The RTA Board of Commissioners is proud of the RTA's progressive initiatives in developing the region's workforce, with a special focus on restorative justice," said Flozell Daniels, Jr, RTA board chair. "As one of the leading public sector agencies in the region, we must continue to invest in our people by fairly employing individuals in our community with thriving pay and benefits to support their households and the regional economy.”
In 2012, the Reentry Court program was legislatively authorized to operate in conjunction with the Department of Corrections (DOC). The first two Reentry Court programs were started by Judges Laurie White and Arthur Hunter in New Orleans and implemented at Louisiana State Penitentiary and Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women.
They were designed to provide non-violent incarcerated individuals with an opportunity to acquire vocational skills while participating in rehabilitative programs and job/social skills training during incarceration at Louisiana State Penitentiary and Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women.
“Through the Reentry Court and the vocational training inside our prisons, we have been able to prepare hundreds of releasing incarcerated individuals for high-skilled, high-paying jobs upon release,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy Le Blanc. “We are excited about this partnership with RTA and the prospects of providing gainful employment for our releasing individuals. These types of jobs ensure the ability to earn a living-wage salary that will pay the bills and sustain quality of life that will reduce recidivism.”
This partnership is made available through the Workforce innovation and Opportunity ACT (WIOA) which is coordinated through the Louisiana Workforce Commission. As a participant in the JOB1 OTJT program, the RTA will be reimbursed 50% of the participants/trainee’s regular hourly wage excluding payment hours not worked for sick, vacation, holiday, lunch, personal, jury duty, and overtime hours up to a maximum of 40 hours per week. The RTA will compensate participants with equivalent wages and benefits afforded regular employees.
“The RTA has taken the lead among governmental agencies recognizing that 96% of the people who enter prison will be released," said Judge Arthur Hunter. “If we want them released better people rather than better criminals and taxpayers rather than tax takers, then reentry programs must be expanded and employers must make the investment to allow people the opportunity to take care of themselves, their families and make our city safe.”