The stress of searching for a job with a criminal record can be overwhelming. Over 40,000 people return to Philadelphia from state and federal prison every year, approximately 44,000 people in Philadelphia are on probation at any given time and over 300,000 people living in Philly have criminal records.

When individuals are released from jails or prisons, they are faced with the task of finding resources with limited guidance and immediate needs. Many of these men and women re-entering our community from incarceration struggle with a social stigma that can make it even more difficult to find stability and feeling accepted. Stable employment is one of the strongest predictors of a returning citizen’s post release success, including recidivism, whereas finding employment is one of the greatest barriers to successful reintegration. The potential is great, therefore, for work programs to improve their financial, personal, and professional success and ability to contribute more fully as citizens.

I’m proud to be part of a new program at UpLift called Workforce Solutions. My name is Barry Johnson and I’m the Director for Workforce Solutions. We are a heartbeat away from cutting the ribbon on something that will bring new life for those struggling to find a new beginning. We are going to train formally incarcerate individuals to reenter the workforce. The program will focus on developing both hard and soft skills of re-entering citizens; whereas, each participant that successfully completes the six-week classroom portion of the program will be offered a position at Brown’s Super Stores.

During their enrollment, the Workforce Solutions staff will provide supportive services such as finding GED classes, applying for a State ID and taking their driving permit exam. Workforce Solution’s is also proud to have partnered with community organizations to assist with any other challenges such as housing and mental health. Additionally, program participants will maintain engagement with case management personnel throughout their employment.

When we started looking for recruitments, I did not expect the overwhelming level of responses. My voicemail and email have been filled daily with stories from men and women who have been struggling to find a job. Some are just worn out from years of being turned away. Others are close to giving up. They are desperate and looking for a way to make a living for themselves and their families. We know that employment is the key to keeping people from returning to prison. Many of these individuals, due to a lack of opportunity, decide their only option for survival is to re-engage in past behavior. This cycle has led to an 80 percent recidivism rate and long-term structural poverty.

UpLift Workforce Solutions is creating opportunities where they don’t exist. We are developing strong partnerships to strengthen this unique training program. Uplift’s Workforce Solutions understands the priority of employment and self-sufficiency and has taken reentry to a new and exciting place. Uplift Workforce Solutions are thrilled about this initiative and are looking forward to helping returning citizens rebuild their lives.

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Barry Johnson is the Director of Workforce Solutions for UpLift. For nearly fifteen years Mr. Johnson has spent his career leading reentry programs and ensuring a successful transition for returning citizens. His diverse background and focus on community collaboration has led him to several opportunities and leadership roles. Mr. Johnson is a Navy veteran who has previously worked for the Pennsylvania Prison Society, JEVS Human Services and the Center for Literacy.  Barry Johnson received his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from University of Maryland, College Park and holds an MBA from the University of California at Irvine.