Close your eyes. Imagine that you are a French national and Founder and CEO of a software corporation headquartered in Saint-Herblain, France which provides products and services to medical professionals and biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in three continents. Your company generates at least $100,000,000,000 annually in revenues. You are contemplating establishing a physical presence in the American marketplace by purchasing office space in the downtown business district of a northeastern city in the United States. Three large world-class academic institutions reside in this northeastern city and are located just a “stone’s throw” away from the downtown business district which is where your company’s office will be located. Townhouses and high-rise apartment buildings share the downtown landscape with multi-storied concrete and glass office towers which will make the commute to work easy for your employees. If they choose to, they can walk to work!
Now, your foray into the American marketplace by moving yourself and many of your employees into a brand new downtown office building located in this northeastern city is not just about expanding your company’s bottom line, enhancing its visual identity, and increasing its market share. You want to contribute to the current and future growth of your new home by establishing technology hubs and developing human capital in its middle neighborhoods. It is a strategy that was quite successful in Saint-Herblain, France. You have every confidence that employing this same strategy in the northeastern city which you, your company, and your employees plan to call home will create the ultimate “win-win” situation. Yet, at the same time, you are very troubled about the news stories that are being brought to your attention about your new home — disruptive and sometimes violent flash mobs descending on its downtown business district, its high recidivism rate, and high school students engaged in donnybrooks at public transportation stations – the same stations that some of your employees may use to commute to and from work. Will one of your employees, through no fault of their own, find themselves in the middle of a violent flash mob or a youthful donnybrook? If your new home is struggling with a high recidivism rate which, ultimately, reduces resources, will it have sufficient resources to allocate to your company – should the need arise?
Do you hit the “pause” button and rethink your decision to move your company, yourself, and your employees to the northeastern city in question? Or, although the risks are glaringly clear, do you move forward with your plans? What should you do?
The scenario I just created gives credence to a prevailing school of thought that disruptive and violent flash mobs which cause physical injuries to individuals and massive property damage to businesses; donnybrooks at public transportation stations; and a high recidivism rate are more than just mere public safety, parenting, and social policy issues or a “neighborhood problem” that is playing itself out “downtown”. It is a scenario that negatively impacts the renewal of prosperity and economic sustainability of an entire city.
So, what is the answer?
One solution lies in the implementation of the Mayor’s Mentorship Initiative, a component of OPERATION FRESH START™ which is a multi-tiered blueprint for creating pathways to reintegration for formerly incarcerated Men and Women crafted by The Honorable James M. DeLeon, a highly respected and veteran jurist in the Criminal Court Division of Philadelphia’s Municipal Court. It is a solution that helps to eradicate the rising recidivism rate of a city while simultaneously counseling and guiding “at risk” youths – a number of whom are participants in flash mobs and donnybrooks – all of which helps to free up the City’s resources – resources which can be allocated to attract and retain new businesses, repair a deteriorating infrastructure, improve public education, and reduce the tax burden of citizens. The Mayor’s Mentorship Initiative calls for nonviolent offenders to be fully vetted and trained as mentors by organizations that have a successful track record in mentorship training. Immediately subsequent to successfully completing mentorship training, formerly incarcerated nonviolent offenders – Men and Women – will be employed as mentors to “at-risk” youth in communities throughout the City of Philadelphia.
Organizations providing mentorship training to formerly incarcerated Men and Women who are fully vetted nonviolent offenders and have successfully completed training, will also provide them with a counselor. The same counselor will also be assigned to the family of “at-risk” youths – the mentees. Mentors, counselors, and family members of the mentees would work together as a team. At no time would mentors usurp the authority of the mentees’ parent(s) or legal guardian. The Mentor’s primary and sole role is that of a counselor or guide to the mentee. Further, the mentor will be required to communicate on a weekly basis with the counselor assigned to him or her and the mentee’s family.
Participants in the Mayor’s Mentorship Initiative will receive a review of any pardon or clemency request prior to its submission to ensure that it is accurate and that all factors are complete for consideration in Pardon and Clemency Applications. Administration of The Mayor’s Mentorship Initiative would encompass the generation of a Letter of Understanding between the District Attorney’s Office and the Mayor’s Office laying out the benefits of the Initiative. Simultaneously, a Letter of Initiative which explains the program will be generated and distributed to any crime victim with the understanding that the victim has the right to approve – in writing – the proposed Mentor’s participation in the Initiative. Once the Mentor has successfully completed the Initiative, a letter will be generated to the Board of Pardons from the Mayor’s Office personally attesting to this fact. An understanding will be established with the State Supreme Court that the Mentor is a participant in The Mayor’s Mentorship Initiative and a similar understanding will be established with the Governor’s Office. A “Working Group” consisting of key stakeholders from diverse professional backgrounds stand ready to help implement The Mayor’s Mentorship Initiative by acting as a liaison between communities, organizations providing mentoring training, the Mayor’s Office, and formerly incarcerated individuals – nonviolent offenders — who are candidates for the Initiative.
Recurring flash mobs and donnybrooks cannot be “policed” away. Criminalizing flash mobs and donnybrooks punish the wrongdoers but does not get at the root of the problem. The root of the problem is a myriad of deeply embedded key challenges – key challenges that our city’s children and youth struggle with daily and for which they do not have proper coping skills. Fully vetted formerly incarcerated nonviolent offenders who participate in the Mayor’s Mentorship Initiative can provide our children with the coping skills they need to address their key challenges. It is a key “piece of the puzzle” to renewing prosperity and creating economic sustainability for everyone.
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