In May, so many ex-offenders showed up at a city job fair that the city shut it down. Like 3,700 people. The episode got the city a lot of unflattering attention, including from the right-wing Drudge Report and a prominent white supremacist website.
But this time, things will be different. Different because "pre-registration is mandatory. Interested participants are encouraged to go to expo.phila.gov to complete the on-line registration via computer or smart phone."
The bold font is original from the press release, which was sent out last night. The expo, as it happens, is this morning, 9:30am, at the Convention Center. It sure seems like a measure to depress turnout. [Update: I was either wrong or it didn't work: City Paper editor Samantha Melamed is on the scene, says they are now allowing on-site registration. Turnout is huge.]
The event was briefly mentioned during a press conference last week, which the mayor's office billed as showcasing the city's "comprehensive anti-crime strategy." As the Daily News put it, the "well-attended event featured little new information and was designed to showcase the city's existing anti-crime tactics."
I wonder if the guys most on the fence between getting a job and grabbing your purse are precisely the ones who "pre-registration" will screen out. That said, finding jobs for all of the city's thousands of ex-offenders is a New Deal-level big government task far bigger than any municipal government can accomplish.
It sure doesn't seem like a society that can't get those 3,700 people jobs is one that has any sincere desire to improve public safety.
According to a 2011 Economy League of Greater Philadelphia study, employing 100 ex-offenders would create $1.2 million in new annual earnings (which means tax revenue) plus more than $2 million in cost savings from the justice system. Federal and state prisons, according to the League, release 40,000 people into Philadelphia each year (there are redundancies for those imprisoned twice in one year).
Murders have fallen 30-percent compared to mid-way through last year. Yet no one is yet sure exactly why, or if the new and rosier numbers are here to stay. Last week, Managing Director Rich Negrin was right to say that no one is "dancing in the end zone."
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