Clarke proposes moving prison funds to lot-cleaning re-entry programs

A bill introduced by City Council President Darrell Clarke seeks to transfer $500,000 from the Philadelphia Prisons System budget to programs that could hire citizens returning from incarceration to provide landscaping and cleaning services on vacant, abandoned lots.

Clarke says that the move could ultimately reduce the Philadelphia prison population.

“We want to increase opportunities for people who have had challenges in their lives being returning citizens,” Clarke said. “History has shown, when a person gets a second chance for employment, you can reduce the recidivism rate.”

City officials questioned the proposal.

“We support the premise of the bill,” said Philadelphia Public Safety Director Mike Resnick. “But I don’t think it’s the best funding mechanism to take money from a prison system that needs to house, feed, care for and medicate inmates to pay for this program.”

Resnick said city programs like PowerCorpsPHL, RISE and CLIP already offer opportunities to returning citizens and handle vacant lots.

But Clarke said funding for re-entry programs should be a higher priority.

“We want to be in a position as maintenance season starts in spring for this to be up and running,” he said.

The bill passed the Appropriations Committee Wednesday and will head to a vote before Council.

The funding transfer would not take place until the Office of Housing and Community Development and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society enter an agreement to hire citizens returning from incarceration.

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