Jacksonville leaders pitch Operation New Hope to HUD secretary

Ben Carson visits with graduates of program that helps employ ex-cons

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson met Thursday with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and other area business leaders at Operation New Hope. 

The group discussed the Port Academy Jobs Training Program, which aims to match local residents, including those returning from prison, with port authority jobs. Included in the meeting were four people who have recently completed the program.

Kevin Gay, the president of Operation New Hope, said having Carson in town and being able to show him what the program has to offer could be taken back to Washington and potentially used as a model for other programs across the country.

Carson spoke about the need for programs and jobs to lower the recidivism rate nationally. He said our country’s prisons hold 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

Carson wanted to hear what those who recently completed the program had to say about their experiences. He said an important step is creating a path to self-sufficiency for participants so they can provide an economic boost to their communities. 

Among the problems with the current system, Carson cited, is that people go into prison with no skills or education and come out with no skills or education. 

“When you think someone else is in control of your life, you become hopeless,” Carson said.