Posts tagged ‘philadelphia’

NO DISCRIMINATION in HIRING of EX-CONS

This article originally appeared at The Temple News on Sept. 29, 2009.

Hiring ex-offenders gets Philly businesses a tax break, but Temple has no specific policy.

According to a recent study, 40,000 ex-convicts from federal, state and local prisons come to Philadelphia each year. One-third of them reside in the areas surrounding Temple.

Buzz surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles has revolved primarily around the team’s new quarterback, ex-convict Michael Vick, after he signed in August. What many Philadelphians aren’t hearing, though, is that the franchise was offered a tax break, as any company would, by the city’s Mayor’s Office for the Re-entry of Ex-Offenders.

The Eagles turned down the tax break, which MORE grants to encourage companies to hire ex-felons in an effort to reduce repeat incarceration.

Vick’s situation represents a larger issue surrounding employment opportunities for those released from prison.

While Temple doesn’t have a specific hiring policy for ex-offenders, the university does not discriminate, said Ray Betzner, assistant vice president of university communications.

“We do have programs that hire as many local residents as we can,” Betzner said. “That’s very important to us, and we’ve been making great strides.”

Temple’s Community Outreach and Hiring Program targets eight communities surrounding Main Campus to provide employment and career development opportunities. In 2006, 102 local residents were hired from these communities.

Temple officials involved with the hiring of employees at the university – Harry Young, associate vice president of employment, and William Hart, director of community outreach and hiring – did not return requests for comment on the university’s hiring of ex-offenders.

A 2007 report by two University of Pennsylvania professors found that 40,000 ex-cons from federal, state and local prisons come to the city per year.

Wayne Welsh, a Temple criminal justice professor, said one in four men in Philadelphia have been or are currently under some kind of criminal justice supervision.

“There are so many ex-offenders running around in the poorest communities in Philly,” Welsh said. “Chances are, we’re coming into contact with a number of ex-offenders everyday…whether at Temple or the bus stop.”

In 2005, one-third of offenders returning to Philadelphia lived in neighborhoods around Temple, including Fairhill, North Central, Hartranft and Strawberry Mansion, the UPenn report said.

Yet few services target this population. In Fairhill, there are seven organizations that provide services to ex-offenders for the 1,101 ex-prisoners who returned in 2005.

According to the report, 63 percent of ex-offenders are arrested for a felony, serious misdemeanor or parole violation within three years of release. Statistically, 47 percent of these will be re-convicted, and 41 percent will return to prison.

With the number of inmates skyrocketing in recent years – Philadelphia Prison System numbers doubled to 8,000 from 1985 to 2005, Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison decided to implement a Re-entry Task Force last spring.

Welsh is part of the new task force.

“The problem is we have all these different agencies, and they all do different things,” Welsh said. “The basic mission is to develop a strategic plan, to bring together all these different agencies in a somewhat cohesive way.”

Welsh said the task force will begin by taking inventory. Then, they’ll try to fill in the gaps with existing resources. Members of the task force hope to receive funding from the federal government’s Second Chance program, he said.

Universities in Philadelphia can play a large role in data organization and, like Temple, have the opportunity to employ high numbers of ex-offenders, but they aren’t the only ones.

Currently in Philadelphia, “there’s some strong support for doing a better job on re-entry,” Welsh said. He knows it won’t be easy, he said, but he remains optimistic.

“There are many other employees in the city and region who could potentially hire large numbers of ex-offenders, if they could be convinced ex-offenders have the skills or potential skills to be good, productive employees.”

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Sep 29, 2009 at 8:19 pm Leave a comment

PHILLY KIDS LEFT on STREETS without CURFEW CENTERS

 

This article was originally published at PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com on Sept. 15, 2009.

Philadelphia at night.

David Seng has seen a lot of children out during the middle of the night on the streets of Philadelphia. On average, he says, the number is about 12, and each story is different.

 

“The usual excuse was they were out to pick up Chinese food, and then when you smell them, you know they’ve been drinking,” Seng said. “We had one kid, I remember, who was looking for his father to kill him. We have kids that were picked up – eight or nine years old – at one o’clock in the morning.”

Seng is the director of housing at United Communities of Philadelphia, and he operated the Houston Curfew Center in South Philly.

But that curfew center was shut down in the fall of 2008, and the children who used to be picked up in the middle of the night are now left on the streets.

Along with the United Communities’ center, Mayor Michael Nutter shuttered over half of the curfew centers in Philadelphia, leaving only four for each sector–north, south, east and west-of the city. By the end of 2008, the city was left without any curfew centers, and the police were left with an ordinance they didn’t have the resources to enforce.

In Philadelphia it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to be more than one block from his or her home after midnight on weekends and 10:30 p.m. on weeknights. For youth under 13, the times are 10 p.m. and 9 p.m.

“Every time there’s a new administration they have their own agenda, and the curfew center was the agenda of John Street,” said Archye Leacock, executive director of the Institute for Development of African American Youth Inc., which ran a curfew center in North Philly West.

Nutter’s administration has assured communities that closing the centers had nothing to do with the gap in the city’s budget. Instead the administration insisted its funding cut was due to the ineffectiveness of the centers.

But police and curfew center directors insist that youth crimes and victimization decreased in communities with curfew centers. So who’s right?

Mayor Nutter’s administration stands by a September 2008 report by the Office of Health and Opportunity, which found that there was “no indication of substantial increase or decrease in juvenile arrest or victimization” once curfew centers began operating.

“I don’t know where they got their data from; I totally disagree,” Seng said. “I know what kind of characters we brought in. I saw the kids every night.”

The Office of Health and Opportunity cites that an average of only three violations occurred at each curfew center per night. The average cost per individual at a center was $789, a cost the report contends is too large for less-than obvious results.

But Chief Operating Officer of the Nicetown Community Development Corp. Majeedah Rashid said that on an average night 15 to 20 kids were brought into Nicetown’s curfew center.

Nicetown CDC ran one of the 11 curfew centers shut down by Nutter.

“The city said it was not cost effective. That it wasn’t consistent enough to justify running the curfew centers,” Rashid said. “But most of the centers were overflowing.”

The report also cites the inability of curfew centers to link families to social and psychological services if needed. Leacock, Rashid and Seng all disagree, saying their centers heavily emphasized support services to families.

“Ninety-eight percent of young people that we served, we did get into some sort of service,” Leacock said. “Again, which kid at 13 is going to be out at three in the morning? This work is not easy, and you get very little dollars…we’re very low on the totem pole.”

The report states that although the number of youths brought to the centers increased during fiscal year 2008 so did the number of curfew centers, making the data inconclusive.

But the data could also be interpreted to mean that these curfew centers were fulfilling a real need in the communities they serve.

“These kids are out there, and we need to be able to help these young people,” Leacock said. “The [curfew] center ran for two and half years. We provided real service to these kids. When we picked up a young person 12 [or] 13 years old, we knew something was going on at home. Can you imagine now with no curfew centers what’s happening with these families?”

Philly police were responsible for picking up youth who violated curfews.

What’s happening now to the kids who violate curfew is not much of anything. If drugs or underage drinking isn’t involved, police officers pass by. Though police precincts were directly involved with curfew centers, Leacock said the police often had to be reminded to pick the kids up.

“Sometimes police wouldn’t think it was such a big deal,” Leacock said. “We would say to them if you help us pick up these kids today, tomorrow they won’t be the murderers and victims.”

As long as curfew centers do not receive funding from the city, they will remain closed. Financially overburdened community centers simply don’t have the capacity to run curfew programs alone.

“We don’t have the money; we don’t have the manpower because it’s a combination of the community and the police and also mental health experts,” Seng said.

But Leacock is slightly optimistic that curfew centers will eventually reopen.

“Once all of this is settled and the budget is in place, I do think there is a need for young people at those hours who are looking for support and protection,” Leacock said. “Whether we call it a curfew center, a basketball league or an overnight rest center, I do think there is room for a program like that.”

 

Sep 15, 2009 at 7:40 pm Leave a comment

STUDENTS for ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION PUSH for CLEAN ENERGY POLICIES

This article was originally posted at The Temple News on Nov. 28, 2006.

 

Since the Center for Sustainable Communities was established at Ambler Campus in 2000, Ambler’s reputation for environment work on campus and in the community quickly grew.

Now, some students and faculty members said they think it’s time for Main Campus to follow in Ambler’s ecological footprints.

Main Campus’s Students for Environmental Action group is trying to change Temple’s energy policies and educate students about the environment any way they can, even if it means getting attention in seemingly silly ways.

On Oct. 27, in the midst of an array of Homecoming events, SEA had a table set up in the lobby of the Student Center. While posters, loud music and flyers that they handed out on previous days all drew students’ attention, the fight that the group staged between two students dressed as a windmill and smokestack was the group’s most conspicuous ploy to attract students to their cause.

SEA’s commitment to its message makes the group stand out, according to junior political science major and SEA student government representative, Andrew Kelser.

“I went to a meeting and realized the group was about more than just recycling or some small scale project,” Kelser said.

SEA is the antithesis of “doing nothing” on environmental issues, rather, the organization’s goals are “very ambitious,” according to SEA’s president, Laura Stein. Stein said the club’s ultimate goal is to get Temple to commit to zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. A short-term goal is to convince Temple to purchase at least 15 percent wind power by the end of this semester.

These goals are linked to the Campus Climate Challenge, a national environmental challenge for universities’ student organizations that Temple is participating in. This challenge was designed by the Environmental Action Coalition, a partnership founded in 2004 and comprised of over 30 environmental and youth organizations in the United States and Canada, including Greenpeace and the National Wildlife Federation.

 

The main goal of the challenge is adoption of a 100 percent clean air policy, meaning that each university does not use any energy source that pollutes the air.

One of the advantages to being registered as part of the Challenge is the resources that are available to participating student organizations, Stein said. One of these resources is the Sierra Student Coalition, which works directly with many university student organizations, including Temple’s.

Kim Teplitzky, a former Temple student, works with SEA and the Sierra Student Coalition, helping the club with recruitment methods and their energy proposals.

“I’m not organizing [schools’] campaigns,” Teplitzky said. “But with my past experience at Temple, I can really help them avoid the common pitfalls that I ran into.”

According to Robert Mason, an urban and geography studies professor at Temple, one of these common pitfalls may be keeping students’ interest in the club’s goals. About five years ago the club had made a strong push for wind energy, but the enthusiasm eventually evaporated.

“The club was really sputtering,” Mason said. “But students’ energy now has really picked up.”

Currently, SEA has its highest membership ever with 30 active members and 200 people on its listserv. Many of the club’s members are not environmental studies students.

Kelser said he has noticed that students are very eager and receptive to the goals of the club.

“I think SEA will continue to grow because global warming affects everyone eventually,” he said. “Our goals will affect everyone.”

Though student involvement is increasing, the group said that the participation of Temple’s administration is uncertain. Kurt Bresser, the energy manager at Temple, declined to comment, though the group said that they and Bresser have recently begun talking about energy policies.

In Pennsylvania, 33 schools, including the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, have committed to using some percentage of wind power.

Most students and professors within the environmental studies department or SEA said that they think interest among students won’t be going away anytime soon.

“There is a lot of popular attention to environmental issues now because of general news coverage and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” Mason said. “This is a window of opportunity for Temple to promote itself as an ecological and environmentally responsible institution.”

Nov 28, 2006 at 10:53 pm Leave a comment

65 NATIONS ALL UNDER ONE ROOF

This article originally posted at The Temple News on Nov. 29, 2005.

 

Imagine a place where students from 65 different countries come together to live and learn in a diverse, urban environment.

Now imagine being able to attend discussions and speeches that talk about other cultures, watch foreign films and listen to cultural music, all without ever leaving your house.

Move into Philadelphia’s International House. Located at 3701 Chestnut St., in University City, the House is a 12-story dormitory for foreign students, who attend school in Philadelphia.

It provides cultural, social and educational programs to help students adjust to life in America.

Oliver Franklin, president and CEO of the House, describes it as a “community of scholars and students, who come together to learn, but most importantly to promote mutual tolerance and respect of other cultures.” There are about 33 Temple students living in the International House, according to Glenn Martin, director of Residential Services and Programs. American students in Philadelphia can expand their horizons by learning about other cultures. The House provides a great atmosphere for foreign and American students to interact.

Each year, the House hosts many cultural programs and activities. This year the main featured program is “Ubuntu: The essence of South Africa.”

Activities so far have included South African wine tasting, an African drumming workshop, several films and a panel event featuring three South Africans, who spoke about their experiences growing up during apartheid in the nation. Most of the events are free for the public.

The House also co-sponsored a book signing of Memoirs, the autobiography of Ahmed Kathrada, who was Nelson Mandela’s prison confidante. Kathrada spoke about his life and book at the National Constitution Center in Center City.

In addition to sponsoring special events like “Ubuntu,” the House also displays photography exhibitions. Currently on display is “World Views from the Penn Lens,” which showcases Philadelphia photographs taken by international students and American students’ photographs of study abroad experiences.

Foreign films, foreign and American documentaries and avant-garde films and classic American movies are shown. Admission is $5 for students. These films feature perspectives from all over the world. Every month Cinema Tropical shows independent and mainstream films from Latin America.

Reelblack Presents is a series of movies promoting African American film. Other series promote other cultures, new ideas and demonstrate new ways to view films. The House also features mini-film fests of related movies. One of these is the upcoming Italian Film Festival, which runs from Dec. 6 to Dec. 10. Every night a different Italian movie will be shown. The House offers English classes for its international students, as well as French, Japanese, Arabic and Mandarin classes for those who are interested.

The House sponsors a Geographic Adventures trip for students in February to South Africa. Another trip to Ecuador is offered to graduate students and professionals, ages 21 to 40.

Nov 29, 2005 at 10:22 pm Leave a comment


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