Program aims to improve job prospects of former inmates while sprucing up Philly

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 Philadelphia Councilman Kenyatta Johnson says the $500,000 program will help the city meet a need — improving the conditions of vacant lots — while reducing the odds that former inmates will return to prison. (NewsWorks file)

Philadelphia Councilman Kenyatta Johnson says the $500,000 program will help the city meet a need — improving the conditions of vacant lots — while reducing the odds that former inmates will return to prison. (NewsWorks file)

Fifty candidates for a new work initiative came to Philadelphia City Hall for job interviews Wednesday.

The program aims to help those who spent time behind bars.

 

For years, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson said, he’s been concerned about helping ex-offenders find work.

“I remember two summers ago, going block to block, door to door, corner to corner, in the evening in South Philadelphia,” he said. “Offering resources to young men so they could get off the corner instead of engaging in a life of crime.”

The $500,000 program will help the city meet a need — improving the conditions of vacant lots — while reducing the odds that former inmates will return to prison, Johnson said.

“We cannot arrest our way out of the situation,” he said. “People will go away on state roads, they will go away to Graterford. But at the end of the day, people will return to the communities.  I am proud to stand here to be supportive of this particular initiative that focuses on not only reforming individuals coming home from our criminal justice system but also addressing the issue of blight.”

The public-private initiative has been dubbed the “land care re-entry initiative,” said Matt Rader of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

“PHS and the city are partners in this new program,” he said. “It encourages and assists private employers to transform blighted vacant lots, while hiring and training former prison inmates who are returning to their communities.”

Terrell Bagby, the head of re-entry services for the city, said he’s thankful when an employer wants to take a chance on someone with a record.

“Nothing combats employment discrimination against returning citizens more than actually giving them a job and a chance to prove themselves on the job,” he said. “In order to reduce our prison  population and save taxpayers millions, we need to have  meaningful opportunities to become productive citizens.”

The program’s goal is to clean and green 2,000 lots around the city.

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