Jim Strickland

Jim Strickland is mayor of Memphis.

Mayor: It's our duty to help ex-offenders reenter the workforce

By Updated: June 07, 2019 2:18 PM CT | Published: June 02, 2019 2:17 PM CT

We’re all human, and the last time I checked, not one of us is perfect. Life is about forgiveness, second chances and lending a helping hand to those who need one when and where we can. I believe ensuring that those who have made mistakes do not spend the rest of their lives paying for them will have a long-lasting impact on every neighborhood in our city. 

Reducing recidivism and helping ex-offenders get back on their feet has been a priority and passion of ours at City Hall, and the importance of a strong workforce re-entry program cannot be overstated. The overwhelming majority of those convicted of a crime will not remain incarcerated for the rest of their lives, and it’s our duty to help them once they have been released.

By helping folks reacclimate to society through skills training and by connecting them with much needed opportunities, we will lower our crime rate and continue to improve the greater-Memphis economy. We can and are currently rebuilding the Memphis Police Department; however, we cannot police our way out of this. If people are employed and earning paychecks, the chances of them committing crimes are dramatically reduced. As of now, there are thousands of unfilled jobs in our city and its surrounding areas. We simply need a trained workforce to fill them.

<strong>Jim Strickland</strong>

Jim Strickland

That being said, having a criminal record can be a tough barrier to workforce entry for so many in our community, and we don’t want a lack of funds to be the barrier between getting a job or going back to a life of crime. To help combat this, three years ago we created the Better Memphis Fund, a collection of privately raised money to help pay for expungements. Since its inception, the fund has paid for more than 150 individuals to have their records expunged, and we’re continuing to work with the District Attorney’s office to do more.

Starting with a clean slate is one thing, but many need more guidance, training and accountability to reverse the cycle. That’s why we partnered with the faith-based community three years ago to create Manhood University — a six-week program to inspire men to build up their communities, find jobs and create stronger relationships. During this program, participants learn to develop skills such as goal setting, time management, financial literacy, conflict resolution, job readiness and communication. Since its inception, Manhood University has helped more than 300 men help themselves — and, in turn, help their city.

Recently, because of the success of Manhood University, we created a women’s program called WOWS (Women Offering Women Support). This six-week program focuses on health and wellness, parenting philosophies and financial literacy. The pilot group consisted of 30 participants who completed 12 hours of training.

As we continue to work on the re-entry process, it’s important to note that the future prosperity of our city depends on the investments we make in our citizens today. The Better Memphis Fund, expansion of Manhood University and addition of WOWS are large steps toward that necessary investment. 

I hope you will join me on June 11 for a forum focused on how employers can connect with ex-offenders who have benefited from Manhood University, WOWS and other programs in the community. The forum will be held on the University of Memphis' main campus. Registration and parking are free. Register here


Jim Strickland Manhood University Better Memphis Fund Women Offering Women Support

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