Philadelphia has a new initiative designed to put cash on the table instead of tax credits for city businesses that hire people with criminal records.
Mayor Jim Kenney is urging businesses to take advantage of it.
“There’s a lot of smart decent people there who took a wrong turn maybe can’t make bail,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t feel afraid when I am in [prison].”
Kenney spoke from the heart during the introduction of the new initiative.
“The people who I have been able to place personally — whether it’s a labor union, a private business — those folks are the best employees that that union or that company has,” he said. “They recognize the chance that has been given to them again to to fulfill an opportunity that their families are taken care of, that they can buy a house, raise their children … that’s all really anybody wants.”
Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney said the goal is to break barriers, “to remove stumbling blocks, so that the folks don’t serve a life sentence for a county sentence — that they can actively engage as active productive citizens the same way we do when we go to work every day.”
Bob Logue, a co-owner of Quaker City Coffee, said he frequently hires people who have gone to jail or prison. It will have a domino effect if more employers follow suit, he said.
“The neighborhoods we grew up in possibly now stand a chance for fathers and mothers who have strong jobs with living wages with benefits and the opportunity to pass that down to the rest of their community,” Logue said.
The program provides a $5 per hour rebate for up to $1,000 a year per person hired. It’s only open to those earning more than $12.10 an hour, what the city considers a “living wage.” That makes the difference between minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and the living wage level.
This story is part of the Reentry Project, an unprecedented collaboration among 15 of Philadelphia’s general interest newsrooms and community and ethnic media organizations to reveal and investigate credible responses to the challenges of recidivism and reentry. You can find more stories from other partners in the project at https://thereentryproject.org/