Allegheny County

Pittsburgh councilman introduces legislation that would provide jobs for former inmates

PITTSBURGH — The city of Pittsburgh has 10,000 vacant lots that need care and former inmates who need new careers.

Councilman Ricky Burgess sees the chance to help both.

“It gives them an opportunity to start over again and to start off with cash so that they’ll have money and feel good about themselves,” Burgess said.

According to new legislation Burgess introduced Tuesday, the city would partner with the nonprofit, Center for Employment Opportunities, to assign cleanup and lot management jobs to former offenders.

The organization has helped more than 34,000 people find jobs in 12 states.

The program that Burgess hopes to implement will mirror one already in place in Philadelphia and operate as an offshoot of the mayor’s newly introduced Plan for Peace, which aims to reduce violence in Pittsburgh. “They hire returning inmates and use them to clean up vacant lots and pickup refuge and to make neighborhoods, especially neighborhoods where they may even be from, at-risk neighborhoods, and make them more beautiful,” said Burgess.

The new program would be funded by grants and operate at no cost to the city.

Burgess says it will help inmates successfully re-enter the community and support themselves — and hopefully stay out of jail.

“As soon as they hit the ground, if they’re engaged in something productive, they don’t go back to the person, places, and things that are triggers for them to cause them to act in antisocial ways and engage in antisocial behaviors,” said Burgess.

The councilman expects the legislation to pass within the next two weeks and aims to get the program up and running as soon as possible.