A second life for Philadelphia program that offers second chances

A relatively small grant from Harrisburg has saved a prisoner re-entry program in Philadelphia.  

A $50,000 state grant to the Pennsylvania Prison Society will revive the re-entry program called Philly ReNew.  It ran out of money over the summer and State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams calls the grant a good investment.

“If state government does not pay on the frontside then we will continue to $30,000 to $40,000 per year per individual on the backside, and by they way, they will be younger and in prison longer,” said Williams. “That is an unsustainable economic model for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Mark Boyd, the CEO of Goodwill Industries for Philadelphia and South Jersey, has hired some of the 400 people who have gone through Philly ReNew. He says the workers make the most of it when given a second chance.

“Here’s the one thing that I can tell you,” said Boyd, “this workforce that I’ve hired is the hardest working best workforce that I have. They are committed to success, they are committed to my businesses success. They have been the hardest working most driven workforce that they have and there is one reason for that. They know that the options that they have are so narrow they cannot mess up this job.”

Isean McNeal spent 15 years in prison and found a job through Philly ReNew.

“Once you make the decision that you don’t want to do what you’ve done any more the best program that I’ve ever come into contact with,” said McNeal.

Senator Williams says state officials will review how the $50,000 is spent to determine if it deserves more down the road.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.