For criminals who want to get back into a normal life, it can be next to impossible.
Prospective employers will be incredibly hesitant to hire someone who has served jail time. Getting a resumé noticed out of a stack of applicants is difficult enough, let alone when you have the stain of a prison sentence following you at every turn.
The problem, of course, is that these difficulties make it even tougher for someone who wants to leave a life of crime to stay clean. If no one will hire them, what will they do for income? The situation often leads to desperation, and a return to illegal activities.
One organization is determined not to leave newly released criminals behind, and make sure those who want a second chance at life actually get it. Enon Baptist Tabernacle church has partnered with Jeffrey Brown, the owner of thirteen ShopRite supermarkets and Fresh Grocer stores in the Philadelphia area, to launch a re-entry workforce program for former criminals.
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Brown told Philly.com that his non-profit UpLift Solutions is on a mission to hire people with criminal records.
And it’s having an amazingly positive effect on the lives of those who otherwise would’ve spiraled back into a life of crime. Louis Rivera, a former drug dealer, is one of these people.
He personally struggled to find work after he left prison and at one point he even had thoughts about going back to selling drugs. Because others were investing in his life, he had a choice – and he decided to stick with an honest days work. Since that decision, he’s been promoted several times and things are looking up.
River explained the false “sense of hope” many ex-offenders face when participating in a re-entry workforce program with no job placement attached to it.
“[When] the person gets out of prison, goes to a training program and then, is given job help, but no actual job. You’ve gone through all this work and then you feel like giving up.”
While it’s Christians who are behind the program, the Reverend Alyn E. Waller said they’re not forcing people to make a statement of faith before participating.
“This is not intended to be evangelistic,” he said. “There may very well be Muslims in the class. Of course, I want everybody to be Christian, but we’re not going to proselytize everyone in order for them to get a job. These are people who need another chance and that’s what the message of Jesus Christ is all about.”
Audrey Fish, UpLift communications manager, told Faithwire in an interview that interest in the program is skyrocketing.
“We [had] no idea the phone would be ringing off the hook. There are about twenty-five people in the first group and there are more interested. ”
At the end of the program, graduates will have a cashier job — 20 hours a week, $7.75 an hour. Attendees also get a $125 stipend, lunch and a bus pass to get to and from the program each day.
But more importantly, they have their dignity, and someone providing them with hope and another path to help avoid a relapse into a life of crime.
For individuals to receive training, participants must sign up in advance with UpLift. To get more information about the program, individuals should click here for details.
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