Friday, June 11, 2010

Reforming Criminals

This jobs for ex-criminals idea, reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, has had some success in different places in the past, but is no longer as enticing.

Nonprofits working with government to help reform criminals are attempting the most difficult work imaginable, in an environment where fully 70% of criminals being released from prisons, return within three years.

The only thing that will work, as is true with most service work involving a personal change in behavior, is an internal conversion to a way of life that is diametrically opposed to that of the criminal world, rather than just a delivery of a specific service—like a job, housing, etc.

Internal conversion is the core of our criminal reformation work at the Lampstand Foundation.

An excerpt from the Inquirer article.

“It was an idea successfully peddled by Michael Nutter even before his mayoral election: Offer tax credits to businesses that hire ex-offenders.

“But with the program up and running for nearly three years now, the administration finds itself working to save it, acknowledging that while it earned Nutter national recognition early on, no employer to date has actually applied for one dime of the $5 million in tax credits available each year. And nobody has been hired.

"We try to fix a lot of things at once, and it does take time around here," said Everett Gillison, Nutter's deputy mayor for public safety, who oversees the initiative.

“Nutter had conceived of the program as a crime-fighting tool, anticipating that providing jobs to former prisoners would help keep them from committing crimes again.

“Businesses that participate can receive tax breaks of $10,000 a year, for up to three years, on the business-privilege tax they pay for each ex-offender they hire for at least six months.

“To pay for the program, the administration put aside $5 million annually, restricting participation to 500 ex-offenders yearly.

“Upon its implementation in 2007, media outlets invited Nutter to publicize the program. A national nonprofit, the Democratic Leadership Council, christened him as the "New Dem of the Week" for implementing it.

“But locally, employers and ex-offender allies alike complained about the program's burdensome requirements - requirements that the administration is now asking City Council to lift before recessing June 17.

"It wasn't working the way it was envisioned to work, so we had to figure out how to make it easier," Gillison said. New legislation was approved last week by Council's Committee on Commerce and Economic Development.

“Among the changes, the administration is hoping to remove a stipulation that employers provide $5,000 worth of tuition assistance to the ex-offenders they hire.”