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Center for Employment Opportunities Highlighted for Violence Prevention Work

WHYY: Sammy Caiola - February 9, 2023

Rasheed Abdus says when he got out of prison four years ago, at age 21, he struggled to find a job.

“Maybe cause I didn’t know how to use a computer,” he said.

A friend connected him to the Center for Employment Opportunities, a national work readiness organization with a Philadelphia chapter, and he started cleaning up parks in Kensington. Now, he’s learning to train other formerly incarcerated people.

He said if not for that connection, he might have returned to a life of drug and gun crime.

“I’d be in jail, I’m not gonna lie,” he said. “Only thing I knew was how to do it in the streets.”

A slew of Philadelphia organizations are launching programs this spring to help formerly incarcerated people gain life skills or find work, partly in hopes of capturing potential perpetrators of gun violence and curbing the city’s high shooting rates. Several of them set up tables at the Free Library’s first-ever Criminal Justice Resource Fair in Nicetown this week in hopes of spreading the word.

“Part of our gun violence crisis in Philadelphia is related to people not having opportunities,” said Jamie Bowers, supervisor for the Free Library Languages and Learning Center. “So if we can help connect people who have been marginalized … with education and record-clearing, and connection to employment, I think that is part of the key of long-term violence prevention.”

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