A second chance at life: Ex-cons learning new skills to prepare for life after prison

A state program is built on the belief that everyone deserves a second shot at life.

For men and women looking at life after prison, they often need new skills to get to that second shot at life, and there is a new program that is designed to help them.

Program teaches truck driving

Driving a big rig is no small task, but for felons like Stephanie Crosby, learning it is like getting the keys to a new lease on life.

"You look at that thing, and you’re a little intimidated at first. Then you learn how to do it, and you say ‘yeah, I got this,'" said Crosby.

Crosby is a repeat offender convicted of selling drugs. As her parole crept closer, so did her fear: fear of where she would go, what she would do, and whether she would break the law again.

"I know, from past experience, that I might fall into doing what I used to do, but Second Chance gave me a whole new horizon," said Crosby.

Drivers like Crosby learn how to carefully maneuver massive machines that weigh 35,000 lbs when empty, and 80,000 lbs when fully loaded. They have to maneuver them backwards and forwards, park them, dock them, as well as the patience and persistence it takes out on the open road.

The 120 hours of classes are taught by a states partner: Phoenix Truck Driving Institute.

"There are lots of opportunities for drivers," said Phoenix Trucking Institute Director of Admissions Christi Kirkendoll. "Lots of companies are looking for qualified drivers to graduate from school, so we are getting them out there and fill the demand."

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Program also teaches other skills

The men and women can learn skills for other occupations as well, Like how to become a plumber, electrician or chef. They can also learn life skills, like how to write a resume, how to prepare for an interview, and even how to handle money. 

"These offenders who are getting out, it takes everyone to get behind them for a second chance. It takes everyone to effect change in our community," said Bill Lamoreaux with the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Program is already having an impact

Cherise Cappella looked into trucking and cooking, but then decided her passion is working at a kind of halfway house, to help women like her prepare for life after prison.

"I get to offer my experience, help, and hope to someone who doesn’t have it," said Cappella. "I will continue to love them until they learn to love themselves."

More than 400 people have completed the Second Chance program, and 50 have already landed a job, including Crosby.

"It’s all about moving forward," said Crosby. "It’s all about the future."