Player’s Coalition co-founder Malcolm Jenkins and board member Rodney McLeod, along with several Philadelphia nonprofits, hosted a job fair for formerly incarcerated people at the Beasley School of Law on Friday.
The coalition, Beasley School of Law and Impact Services, a nonprofit that provides job training and placement to people returning from prison, organized a job fair for formerly incarcerated people to meet employers and nonprofits looking to hire. Employers ranged from Aramark to Jefferson Hospital, and nonprofits like Broad Street Ministry and Temple University’s Pan African Studies Community Education Program advertised their job training programs.
Jenkins and McLeod, both safeties for the Eagles, spoke about the importance of providing jobs to those returning home from prison alongside Keir Bradford-Grey, the city’s chief public defender, during a press conference.
“Every year in this city, thousands upon thousands of people who have spent time in prison return home,” Jenkins said during a press conference. “They paid their debt, and a heavy one. Yet they face so many obstacles upon returning that effectively keep them locked up in chains.”
Jenkins told The Temple News that his role as an athlete is to bring together leaders in the public and private sectors to act on problems facing Philadelphia’s criminal justice system.
“Being able to arrive five years ago in Philadelphia and seeing and getting to meet all the great organizations that were doing work on a grassroots level is very impressive, but you notice that a lot of them are working in silos or don’t have the support they need,” he said.
More than 40 formerly incarcerated people and their families attended the job fair.
Darrell Briddell, who was released from prison in September 2018 after serving 20 years, said the construction job he was matched with through Impact Services has helped him acclimate back into society.
“After being stuck for so long and then to come home in a bustling, thriving city where everything’s changed, it’s overwhelming,” Briddell said. “But in the end, I bore down and did what I needed to do.”
Gregory Grutman, who coordinates workforce training and support services at Project HOME, said he hopes Friday’s event and the ongoing work of the anti-poverty nonprofit will help connect individuals with living wage jobs and potential career paths. The organization’s training includes technology skills, literacy improvement and workplace preparedness, he said.
“We’re committed to getting as many people ready to work,” he said.
Bradford-Grey said she didn’t know what to expect when Jenkins, McLeod and Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long reached out to her through the Players Coalition. But they understand how Philadelphia’s criminal justice system works and how its issues can be effectively addressed through community initiatives, she added.
“Community has played a huge role in getting people to understand how to rehabilitate and work well with their own support structure,” she said. “But [the players] have always been left out of the conversation of criminal justice. It’s been saved for the people who have law degrees and the people who have bureaucratic relationships to the justice system.”
McLeod told The Temple News that his activism is rooted in protecting the children of incarcerated parents.
“You have to think what it does to the children involved, the family itself, having a financial burden now that a member has been taken away, or possibly two, and where that can possibly lead this child down the line,” he said.
CORRECTION: This article was corrected to reflect that the Player’s Coalition is not related to the NFL.