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CTA expands ex-offender apprentice program

Michael Russell, 38, was serving a prison sentence for selling crack-cocaine when he got a break in 2010: He started working at the CTA through a work-release program.

Russell, who lives in Auburn Gresham after being released from prison last year, participated in the CTA's nine-month, ex-offender apprentice program by cleaning rail cars at the O'Hare Blue Line station. Now he's in the process of trying to become a part-time bus driver, the CTA said.

"It changed my life," Russell said of the CTA's apprentice program. "This is the best thing that ever happened."

CTA President Forrest Claypool and Mayor Emanuel announced Wednesday the CTA's apprentice program will expand from 65 jobs to 65 rail positions and as many as 200 bus apprenticeship spots.

Those selected for apprenticeships will be assigned to service platforms and clean buses and trains. Positions pay $9.50 an hour.

The CTA said it will consider job candidates who have been convicted of non-sexual, non-violent and non-domestic violence-related offenses.

"If you want to make sure an ex-offender does not become a repeat offender, you have to have job opportunities," Emanuel said.

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