NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A partnership between the Newport News Sheriff’s Office and the city’s Public Works Department is helping people who’ve been in trouble with the law find work.

The people who’ve gone through the program say it has given them opportunities they otherwise would never have had, and it’s truly changing their lives around.

“The people that I always ran from were the people that was helping me, and they help me today,” said Tyrone Smith, who spent 10 years in federal prison for distribution of heroin.

Smith says the program helped him with coaching, developing interviewing skills, and putting together a resume. He was hired by the Newport News Public Works Department in October 2020, and was part of a crew picking up trash Monday along Oyster Point Road.

Meanwhile, Terry Hawn was in the Village Green neighborhood helping to replace a blocked sewer line. He spent time in jail for assaulting a police officer and driving under the influence.

With help from the Newport News Sheriff’s Office, he’s turning a corner.

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“I never saw myself working, I’ve always been self-employed,” Hawn said. Now the city is helping him get his commercial driver’s license (CDL), which will get him to a higher pay grade.

“If you get your CDL, you can bump your pay up, it’s beneficial, and there’s a great more opportunities to lead my way,” he said.

“We have a shortage of employees that work in Public Works, so when the sheriff came to us with this program, we thought it was beneficial for both of us,” said Frank James, director of Public Works.

“We ask that there be no violent offenses on the background, and we ask that you have a driver’s license in order to receive the referral,” said Tracy Hayes, who runs the sheriff’s outreach programs.

Hayes said there are about 10 people in the pipeline to fill additional spots in Public Works.

“This turnaround, my family’s proud of me for doing this,” Smith said. “Because for so long, I was on the other side of the street.”

The program is open to anyone who’s had experience with the criminal justice system, not just Newport News residents. For more information, click here or call 757-926-8102.