No Jobs for Ex-Cons?

City Hall struggles to get an aid program off the ground.

By Daniel Denvir
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 12 | Posted Apr. 17, 2009

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In March, PW profiled efforts to find work for Philly's ex-offenders. But one major new program is having a difficult time gaining traction.

Ex-offenders looking for a job in a weak economy aren't getting the help they'd hoped for from City Hall.

It became official this week on Tax Day, with a report that the city's tax incentive program to encourage the hiring of former prisoners had not enrolled a single business in its first year. Officials suggested the program’s requirements might have scared off employers. But service providers and advocates familiar with the program say that there are deeper problems -- and that process has been disorganized and confusing from the get-go.

Pamela Superville, a program manager with the Pennsylvania Prison Society’s Philly ReNew program, says that the city never told employers how they could benefit from the Philadelphia Re-entry Employment Program. Superville says that a May 2008 summit on reentry attracted a lot of interest from potential employers but left participants confused and frustrated.

At that meeting, Superville says, City Revenue Examiner Tilahun Afessa was charged with explaining the program to potential employers -- but was unable to answer many questions. She says Carolyn Harper -- then chief of staff of the Mayor’s Office for the Reentry of Ex-Offenders -- eventually stopped the meeting. Harper asked for people’s contact information and pledged to convene a second meeting. Nearly a year later, Superville says, that meeting still has not taken place.

“The confusion and lack of information that employers got from summit was a real turnoff for employers," Superville says. "And a second meeting was never held,”

Harper acknowledges that some were not happy with the meeting but says that Afessa “did a pretty good job. But there were some questions he couldn’t answer. There was more complaining than I would have expected.” She also says that a follow-up meeting was held later last year, although she could not recall when it took place. Attempts to contact Afessa were unsuccessful.

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison says that he has not heard any complaints about the meeting. MORE, he says, has held a number of meetings with employers and service providers.

And, Gillison adds, the economic crisis has taken a toll on all city programs.

“We’re having an economic disaster here. A lot of the funding for programs and operations we have planned on using to fund direct providers has simply evaporated. But we think we’ll weather the storm,” he says.

Further complicating matters, Superville and others were later surprised to find out that her clients would not be eligible for the program anyway. As PW reported in an article last month, City Hall angered many by announcing that benefits would be limited to employers who hired graduates of the MORE program. The provision was not part of the program when it was initially announced -- and was not necessarily the intent of the law City Council passed to create the program, which states that ex-offenders must complete a “package of basic education and job training and retention and support services that the city has designed for the ex-offender.”

But Gillison says that other programs other than MORE can send graduates into PREP; it is simply a matter of incorporating non-profits into the city’s managed response network. In response, Superville said “What is the managed response network?” Harper says that a few organizations were recently “credentialed” to take part in the network, but that the names cannot be made public until the groups are formally notified.

MORE manages programs for former prisoners, but other city agencies, such as the Revenue Department, were responsible for implementing various aspects of PREP. As an Inquirer piece reported last December, most provisions never got implemented.

City Council passed the 2007 law, which Nutter enthusiastically supported, to great fanfare and the initiative received a great deal of national attention and support. Superville and others contacted by PW generally credited Nutter’s sincerity in pursuing PREP, but they say that the program has long suffered from dysfunction.

MORE’s first director, Ronald L. Cuie, himself an ex-offender, was demoted in August after months of spectacular mismanagement that included doubling his staff size and botching contracts with non-profits. But he kept his $87,500-a-year salary for months, leading critics to charge that Cuie’s management capabilities were not sufficiently investigated prior to his hiring.

Harper took over as interim director and, eight months later, remains in that position. Gillison says a permanent director should be hired “soon,” but he says that the city’s hiring freeze makes that difficult.

Advocates hope the program will be turned around. For its part, the city says that the problems just reflect growing pains that can be worked out over the program’s second year. A new reentry task force is scheduled to hold its first meeting later this month and Gillison says that another meeting with employers is currently being planned.

But implementation remains a problem. The Inquirer reports  that the city also missed a January 31 deadline to issue a report on the program and has failed to implement a provision requiring that all recipients of city contracts or abatements of over $1 million identify ways to hire ex-offenders.

And City Hall, which was supposed to set an example for other employers, has failed to meet its own obligations under the law to ensure that public sector jobs are accessible to former offenders.

The law stipulates that “Within forty-five days after this Section becomes law, the Personnel Director shall transmit to the Mayor, the President of City Council, and to the Civil Service Commission recommended guidelines for the City’s hiring of ex-offenders, and recommendations for increasing public, private and non-profit sector employment of ex-offenders, including identifying barriers to such employment and ways to remove such barriers.” Gillison says they are reviewing draft guidelines, but they have yet to be filed.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 12 of 12
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1. Gary said... on Apr 17, 2009 at 10:32PM

“Something fishy is going on in our great city of Philly...something tells me Gov. Rendell people need a little more further looking into. How are we ever to trust hiring ex-cons if we don't have the support and assurance that our government is going to back those programs up.

Come on Gov. Rendell...get your agencies in order.

Sincerely,
Gary”

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2. Anonymous said... on Apr 22, 2009 at 09:36AM

“If you do a search on the internet under Google for "Ex-con Jobs and Making Money on The Internet" you will find an awesome opportunity if you are an ex-con. You don't have to keep on paying after you have served your time.”

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3. Anonymous said... on Apr 22, 2009 at 09:55AM

“Go to http://ex-conjobs.blogspot.com for more info”

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4. Anonymous said... on Apr 22, 2009 at 10:12AM

“Stephen Pierce was in a bad situation like many ex-cons. He is one of the best and world known internet marketers. Learn how he went from no high school education, to selling pharmiceuticals on the street, to homelessness, to where he is now making millions on the internet. You can have that opportunity if you make the choice. Go to http://ex-conjobshere.blogspot.com/ for your opportunity to make money on the internet and be a part of what Stephen is helping ex-cons do.”

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5. Latin King Fumero said... on Jan 28, 2010 at 11:35AM

“OH MY GOD PHILLY IS GUTTER ALWAYS WAS AND WILL STAY THE HOOD AND PHILADELPHIA DO NOT STRAIGHT OUT OR EVER HIRE A EX CON WHO HAS A RAP SHEET LIKE A SERIES OF ALL BELOW BUT ESPECIALLY:
1. DRUG REPEAT ARREST
2.HOME INVASION,RARELY HIRE A MAN BREAKING INTO A HOME THEN TIE
FOLK UP THEN BEAT THEM DOWN JUST SEEIN ON THE RAP SHEET HOME INVASION NEVER GET HIRED SHOW ME A MAN MAKING OVER 35,000 AND UP ON PAYROLL WITH HOME INVASION IN PHILADELPHIA
NOPE.

AND LASTLY A GUN POSSESSION,AND OR ATTEMPTED MURDER OR MURDER,NOT HAPPENING,SO BOTTOM LINE I SEE WHY MOST IN PHILLY LATINO LIKE ME,AS BLACK MEN SOME WHITE ARE NOT WORKING AND HUSTLE STILL DO SHIT BECAUSE THIS IS A REALITY,AND IT IS WORTH THE RISK TO NOT GET CAUGHT,COMPARE TO BE A EMPTY BROKE 25 YEAR OLD GROWN ASS MAN OR WORSE! TO BE 29- NEAR THIRTY WITH STILL
1. NO BANK ACCOUNT FILL UP.
2.NO DAILY CASH IN YOUR POCKET AND LASTLY,
3. BEING A BUM SO I UNDERSTAND ALL THIS AND DO WHAT I GOT TO DO CAUSE PHILLY IS NOT HIRING EX CON WITH RECORD Above.”

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6. adam smith said... on May 11, 2010 at 02:27AM

“It would be nice if this article said a little about the issues employers had. As it is, it doesn't say much of anything.”

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7. Kenny Green said... on Feb 17, 2012 at 09:42AM

“"Its a shame that a man who has served time in prison, for whatever reason, and wants to change his life and provide for his family can"t .Why because there are employers out there that will not give them a second chance. I have been unemployed since 09 and have been trying my hardest to keep the faith and believe that things will happen for me eventually.I have been turned down by some of the most minimal jobs out there but i keep my head up and continue to put trust in God.Iam in community college taking courses in Behaviorl health. But still no income coming in from no source. The only reason Iam not back in prison is that i have no excuse to commit crimes or even compelled to do so.Through education I have come to understand life and why some men do what they do (thats another story) But what about the men who are lost and have no education or people that are supportive in their lives? Thats what we're faced with and what we see today, chaos and destruction........”

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8. Anonymous said... on May 30, 2012 at 08:25AM

“This city and country is full of shit. What about all the criminal activity in their past? I think that the main reason that people don't hire ex offenders is that they already know that we don't go for the bullshit that they normally pass off on other people. Since they are all crook they don't want other crooks to see what they are doing is still criminal. I tired of looking for a job, I'm gonna commit myself wholeheartedly to all the criminal activity that i can cram into the rest of my life and you have this hypocritical society to thank. So when I come to rob you don't beg for mercy, because you gave me none!”

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9. Anonymous said... on Jan 3, 2013 at 12:47PM

“just want the chance to work and support my faimly being an ex-con that's not an easy task if almost impossable when i left prison they said find a job real funny the system got joke's, give me a job let me bust my butt for fare pay i'll feed myself.....”

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10. elizabeth morales said... on Apr 1, 2013 at 03:40AM

“EVERY JOB INTERVIEW I'VE GONE ON SINCE MAY 2011 HAS TURNED ME DOWN BECAUSE I HAVE A FELONY, ALTHOUGH I HAVE THE SKILLS ,EXPERIENCE, I CAN'T GET A DECENT JOB WHERE DOES THE GOVERNOR HELP US?”

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11. Anonymous said... on Apr 9, 2013 at 06:22PM

“I've been home since home since late Feb./early March 2010 and have yet to find decent gainful employment because of my record. Yes I broke the law in 2004 and served my time and was serving my probation until I was falsely accused of a crime I didn't commit and I sat in jail for a year and 2 months waiting to be vindicated.(Mind you this is after the DA got upset that the charges were being thrown out so out of petty anger Assistant DA Jessalyn Gillum refiled all the charges and added a bogus murder charge when there wasn't even a body!!!!)I still completed my probation but cannot pay the court cost because I can't find a job.I can't pay for my record to be expunged because I can't find a job,I can't take care of my son properly because I can't find a job,but yet they have the audacity to call prisons correctional facilities?!!!!! It seems to me they need to change their way of thinking.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Jun 6, 2013 at 05:02PM

“I tried working after I got out. But I came out of prison just as I went in. Mind you, I did not steal or hurt anyone. My psychological problem and medicating it led to my incarceration. It took me years to get better! I pretty much know now that I can't deal with the stigma of being an ex-con or the stigma of being mentally ill. I have a bachelors degree in science and 10 years experience now going to waste. It has been 9 years since my release. I need to settle into the fact that I will not work again and I need to change my name and get a new life and friends because I don't want someone looking up something that is none of their business.

I am glad for some of the time I have had off. I was there for my mom in her dying days. I went and traveled a good deal. I'm a great aunt and a fabulous neighbor. I am also glad that I can afford to not work. What a long strange trip it has been.

I wish myself and all the others out there that struggle with this stigma some peace.”

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