Hard Times

Citywide re-entry programs put ex-offenders to work.

By Daniel Denvir
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 9 | Posted Mar. 17, 2009

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She also fears that a recent tax-incentive designed to encourage businesses to hire ex-offenders will now only be available for employers hiring MORE’s graduates, excluding people from ReNew and other area programs. Izenman says the new rules will actually undermine the goal of getting former prisoners jobs.

“I think it limits the pool of potential employees. So it cuts out people who just go and apply on their own and it cuts out other re-entry programs,” she says.

But MORE Interim Director Harper says that limiting the tax incentive will give employers the confidence necessary to hire a former prisoner.

“This is a good idea because it ensures the employer that the participant/employee has met specific training requirements and that they come with the supportive, wrap-around services that can better contribute to the probability of their success,” she says. And she adds that the project with Goodwill “is a transitional work model and not the typical sheltered workshop ... although sheltered workshops are Goodwill’s specialty, this model is a hybrid of the best of both environments.”

People getting out of prison are quickly confronted with a number of financial obligations, from court fees to paying for mandatory drug testing. Freeman had to have a new phone line installed for his electronic monitoring anklet. “I tried to get the cheapest plan possible because I don’t want a lot of bills if I don’t have a job.”

In addition to these debts, prisoners have their own self-perceptions to battle with. Programs like Philly ReNew help Freeman and others plan for their future and think through their criminal background. Eric Vaughn, a 41-year-old Philly ReNew participant who spent six months in prison after selling drugs to an undercover cop, says the program has already changed the way he looks at things. “It’s not really about my criminal background. It’s about how I see myself,” he says.

And the day PW went to press, at least 17 ReNew participants found gainful employment.

In September, Freeman hopes to begin studying social work at the Community College of Philadelphia.

“I want to work with kids who are in the same sort of position that I was in,” he says. “Kids at a certain age have a choice.”

He says that kids today don’t respect the squeaky-clean social workers from other neighborhoods and backgrounds.

“Me, as a black man, who grew up with the struggle they did, I’ll be able to share something.” 

Daniel Denvir is a freelance writer who recently moved to Philadelphia from Ecuador.

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Comments 1 - 9 of 9
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1. kelly said... on Mar 18, 2009 at 11:07PM

“I am a convicted felon with a masters degree (MBA) and 20 years sales experience in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. I have not been able to find a job in the five years since my release. I cashed out two 401K's to support myself. I can only imagine the difficulties of finding permanent employment without a high school diploma. The challenges are real and quantifiable. It is time for some type of programs to aid in finding employment that supports real life expenses. I don't know what they are, but we need to have a dialogue with input from employers to find out what they need to assure them that giving a felon a job is not the wrong decision.”

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2. Mercedes L. Henderson said... on Mar 24, 2009 at 03:31PM

WOMEN ARE GOING TO PRISON at a faster rate than men.
75% are mothers, 36% have mental health issues, 80% were abused
at some time in their lives and 90% will return to our communities.
For this return to be successful, they need housing, employment,
clothing, medical and mental health services — for starters.
The Pennsylvania Prison Society
April 16, 2009 6 pm – 8 pm
Bryn Mawr Film Institute
824 W. Lancaster Ave. #5
Bryn Mawr
The Panel Discussion will be moderated by
Hon. Katherine Streeter Lewis
Panelists will include former prisoners, human
service providers, public officials and others.
Cathy Wise 215-564-6005, ext. 106
The Pennsylvania Prison Society is a statewide
non-profit organization headquartered in Philadelphia.
Founded in 1787 to advance humankind
by ensuring just and civilized treatment of prisoners,
it now advocates for needed changes in the
criminal justice system that make communities
stronger and neighborhoods safer. The Prison Society
provides prison visitation and monitoring
and direct services to prisoners, former offenders,
and their families.
245 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
www.prisonsociety.org > 215-564-6005
A panel discussion”

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3. Michele said... on Feb 3, 2010 at 02:03PM

“It doesn't help, that when a Ex-Felon is released from prison and if convicted of a Delivery Charge , they find Pa. has suspended their Drivers License. How can they even search for work to comply with their parole conditions. Not everybody lives in the city or where there is mass public transportation.”

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4. xoffender said... on Feb 9, 2010 at 04:05PM

“There's finally a website that is trying to help ex-offenders all over the country called notout.org. It's a work in progress but they're on the right track. People can post resumes and anonymously discuss opportunities and frustrations. I think most importantly it addresses the problem on a national level and it's a hub for networking local ideas. Good luck and keep ur head up!”

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5. Barbara Roane said... on Feb 24, 2010 at 10:23AM

“Good Morning,
I have a family member that was released from prison two months ago,
He can not fine a job. You have some programs in philly.
I gave him information for a program that i knew of . He went to the program that send him for a job. He get to the company. They did not have any more job. But this should have been checked befor he went to new jersey for the job. What do wee do as a people . I have a grandson what chance does my grandson have growing up in philly.

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6. Wil said... on Jul 28, 2010 at 02:15PM

“I am writing a college paper about this topic of repeat offenders and their return to society. Thanks for your comment as it sheds light on just how serious this problem can be. And the choices that man and women are faced with when trying to readjust to society.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Aug 5, 2010 at 12:30PM

“It must be hard for an inmate with a turbulant life and no long credit and money to come up with anything resembling a "home plan" that the department of corrections want for inmates to be released or get thrown back into prison. They all plan for a job and place to stay, but no one want to hire an former con, so both are very difficult to get especially with a down economy. "Home plan" might as well be a "dream plan".”

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8. Jose F. Torres said... on Aug 19, 2010 at 09:07AM

“To Whom it mai concern

Do you have an updated list of companies hiring ex offenders in the Philadelphia, PA area
Your expertise will greatly be appreciated

Thank you

Jose F. Torres
Life Skills Instructor/Certified Peer Spec
Impact Services, Vet Program, Labor Dept
215-739-5774 Ext: 435”

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9. Anonymous said... on Apr 18, 2012 at 08:06AM

“My son parole date is in July. He will be sent to a halfway house in either philly where he grew up or in Harrisburg where he was incarcerated. He has spent many years off and on in jail due to his drug abuse and the way he chose to support his addiction.. He always tried when he got out and even got some good jobs. I have researched the re entry programs. I am not sure if I should send him all the information I researched or let him do it. I do not want to appear as a mother hen hovering over him. He knows he has all of our support and we love him unconditionally and want to help him, We have always been there for him. In the past I guess we were so glad he was out, we ended up doing every thing for him. We do not want to repeat this mistake. We do not owe him anything. We only want him to be strong and do the reentry for himself. I guess I am asking where do we draw the lines in helping where it will be for the good of and not crippling to his re entry success.”


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