Jacksonville, Florida - Vice President Pence at Ready4Work Roundtable with Operation New Hope:

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you.  Thank you, Kevin.  And I just — I’m really honored to be here, and particularly to be here at Operation New Hope celebrating 20 years of changing lives.  This is a model program not only in Florida, but in the United States of America.  So why don’t we all give Kevin and the whole team here a big round of applause for doing such a great job?  (Applause.)

I was anxious to be here.  This is a Ready4Work program that has really set the pace and made an incredible difference.  Kevin, we thank you for your visionary leadership here, and thank you of the hospitality today.

I’m also very honored to be joined by a great friend and someone who is leading Florida to all new heights.  Governor Ron DeSantis, thank you.  Thanks for your time today.  I told the Governor when I saw him — we were on the Space Coast together just a few days ago; I feel like I’m with the governor about every three days — (laughter) — which is just about the way, I think, he likes it.  (Laughter.)  Florida getting its share of attention.  But it’s good to with you, Governor.

Thanks for taking a direct interest in this great program and for the leadership that you’ve shown on law enforcement and on combatting recidivism here in Florida.

Also, it’s a particular joy to be joined today on the road with Ivanka Trump who has done an extraordinary effort in the last year leading the President’s effort to open up pathways — doors of opportunity — for technical and vocational education around the country.  I think she deserves a round of applause because she has shown such a great (inaudible).  (Applause.)

I’m really here today on behalf of the President of the United States to say thank you.  Thank you to men and women of Operation New Hope and to the courageous men and women who have come through this place and chosen a better life, seizing the opportunity.

You know, our administration is committed to law and order, and we support law enforcement.  I’m proud of it.  But I know for this President, his Vice President, and our administration, we want America to be the worst place in the world to commit a serious crime, but we also want America to be the best place in the world, once you’ve done your time, to get a second chance.

And for now 20 years, Operation New Hope has been bringing a second chance and opportunities for a fresh start to people who made the wrong choices early in their lives.  And it’s very inspiring to be here, and it’s a great source of pride, I think, for every American that the Ready4Work program — as I know, Assistant Secretary Pallasch will reflect on — that the Ready4Work program has been utilized here in such an effective way for more than two decades.

The good news, I would say, to all of you who are working here to — with hundreds of businesses across Jacksonville, is this is a — not only are you coming alongside people that are wanting to make a different choice in their life, but there are lots of job opportunities in a growing economy.

Six million new jobs created.  I know the Governor is smiling.  More than a half a million new jobs here in the state of Florida.  And the truth is, as you offer better choices and a better life to people coming out of incarceration, that the reality is, as we’ll reflect more later today, there are actually more job openings in America today than there are people looking for work.

So the opportunities there for a fresh state for people coming through this program have never been better because the American economy is prospering.

And also, I hope this is also a time, Kevin, that you and everyone working here know that, in President Donald Trump and our administration, you have someone who is joining with you in breaking the cycle of recidivism that impacts our communities and impacts our nation.

The reality is that more than 50 percent of the people who leave prison are re-incarcerated within five years.  It’s one of the reasons why we’ve strongly supported Operation New Hope and we support the Ready4Work program.  But it’s also the reason why the President led the way to pass what had come to be known as the FIRST STEP Act.

And on the federal level, Governor, it now is creating new pathways for educational coursework, vocational training, faith-based programs in our federal prison system.  And it’s been supported broadly by law enforcement across this country, but it is all an effort in our federal system to make it possible for people to choose a better path.

And I think — I hope people have a sense that it reflects this President and this administration’s commitment to second chances and to breaking the cycle of recidivism, Kevin, that you and the team here have been breaking now for two decades.

And so with that, I’m anxious to hear more about the program. I thank you for your leadership and for your example.  And I just want you to know that this administration will always be tough on the crime.  We’ll always stand with law enforcement.  We’ll always believe that people are going to be responsible for the choices that they make in life.

But we’re also going to continue to stand, Kevin, with you, with Operation New Hope, with programs like this across Florida and across America that are giving people who serve their time an opportunity to make a better choice in life.  And I’m truly grateful to be here with you.

With that, I’d like to recognize Governor DeSantis.  And thank you for your great leadership on these issues.  And it’s great to be with you today.

(Roundtable commences.)

(Roundtable concludes.)

Well, let me close out by just expressing our gratitude to everyone here at Operation New Hope.  And to Kevin and to your team; to all of the employers who are associated here; public officials who have worked: Jacksonville is a city of second chances, and it’s inspiring to be here and to see the way this program, for 20 years, has been transforming lives and giving people hope.

I also want to thank — I want to thank people across the community who have gotten behind this, state legislators and members of the faith community.  And it is — to hear Charlotte’s testimony about the role of faith in her life.

I think, Kevin, you said to me that faith is the glue; that as people are putting their lives back together, having a program like this that Ready4Work can support in vocational education that makes resources in the faith community available for people to really strengthen the choices that they’re making in their lives, to be law-abiding, is very inspiring.

And I want to thank — I want to thank all the graduates, who have been here, for choosing a better path in your life.  I want to congratulate those that are here and those that might be looking on.

And I just — I want people to know that one statistic that we heard the Governor reflect on is truly remarkable.  The recidivism rate for convicted felons in the state of Florida is 24 percent.  I mean, it’s 24 percent of the people that commit a crime will commit another crime and be back in prison.  One in four.  The recidivism rate for inmates who go through Operation New Hope is 8 percent.

And so, I think my last message is: To anyone looking on or might be reading about this, who has made poor choices in your life, know that there’s a better path.  And thanks to the great work at Operation New Hope and the compassion of the business community and the faith community, you can choose that path and you can break that cycle not just for yourself but for your family.

And as I said before, we’re always going to stand for law and order, just like Charlotte said.  Right?  Stand for safe and secure communities.  We’re going to stand will our law enforcement community, and we’re going to enforce the law.

But it is my great honor to be here at Operation New Hope in Jacksonville and to see second chances being opened.  It has made Jacksonville a stronger community.  It’s making Florida and America a more prosperous place.  And we leave here inspired to find even more ways to extend second chances to people around America.

So thank you all and God bless.