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Approximately 46,000,000 souls in the United States are living in poverty.  It is estimated that the majority of the 2.5 million incarcerated souls in the United States come from an economically dysfunctional family or community.   Each year, 600,000 souls are released from correctional facilities throughout the United States.   For the most part, these souls are uneducated, unskilled, and unemployable.  They return to the  economically dysfunctional communities  which are breeding grounds for crime and recidivism.  Without positive intervention, these souls are doomed to spend their lives languishing in poverty or to yield to the temptation of engaging in illegitimate activities to financially support themselves and their families – the same illegitimate activities that put them on the “fast track to prison” in the first place.  Very little in the way of rehabilitation is occurring in America’s correctional facilities.   So, how do we transform souls who enter prisons across America uneducated, unskilled, and unemployable into educated souls and prospective model employees who, upon completion of their sentence, return to their communities with marketable skills and real-life options?

The Honorable James M. DeLeon, a veteran jurist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania offers an “inside out approach” to creating real-life options for incarcerated souls  who walk into prison uneducated and unemployable and transforming them into prospective model employees equipped with marketable skills through Operation Fresh Start ™.  Masterfully crafted by Judge DeLeon, Operation Fresh Start™ is a multi-tiered blueprint that creates pathways to reintegration for the 600,000 souls who pour into our communities every year and walk among us.   The German Workforce Skills Initiative  and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative are two results-oriented components which comprise  Operation Fresh Start™’s “inside out approach” to creating real life options for incarcerated souls.   Judge DeLeon is recommending that both initiatives be implemented in correctional facilities throughout the United States.   The German Workforce Skills initiative is based on the dual Workforce Skills Training Model that is implemented in Germany.   The dual system, as it is implemented in Germany, provides classroom training and on-the-job training which results in highly skilled workers who have a strong work ethic.   Individuals enrolled in the Workforce Skills Training Model as it is implemented in Germany undergo training in every type of industry ranging from manufacturing to hospitality.  These individuals who are trainees are paid by their companies during the tenure of their apprenticeship.  They are often hired by the companies for whom they once worked as apprentices.  The German Workforce Skills Initiative, based on the German dual Workforce Skills Training model, is being instituted in the American workforce through a partnership between the German American Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Consortium for Advanced  Technical Training.  A pilot program for this initiative could easily be implemented in Pennsylvania prisons through a collaboration by and between the German American Chamber of Commerce located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and a consortium of Pennsylvania businesses and business leaders.

For incarcerated souls who may be well-suited to embark upon an entrepreneurial career path, utilizing the “inside out approach” of teaching entrepreneurial skills through implementation of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative offers yet another pathway to reintegration under the umbrella of Operation Fresh Start ™.  Yes, that’s right!  Operation Fresh Start ™ is advocating teaching incarcerated individuals how to start and operate their own business.   Imagine the positive impact of  hundreds upon thousands of formerly incarcerated souls who return to the economically dysfunctional communities with the intellectual capital to transform these communities into vibrant economic centers. These souls will return to their communities equipped with the necessary information and skills needed to create businesses which will create jobs not only for themselves but also for members of their communities!  The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative is defined as “an investment to help entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing greater access to education, business support services, and capital.”  It is estimated that approximately 47.9% of graduates of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Initiatives create jobs within six (6) months of completing the program.  This initiative could be launched with ease on a “pilot program” basis through a collaboration by and between the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Initiative, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, small business “incubators” at Drexel University, Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania,  and neighborhood business corridors. 

If we are truly serious about effectively addressing and eradicating recidivism and creating viable employment opportunities and real-life options for America’s 2.5 million incarcerated souls, then we cannot wait for these souls to make their way to the “outside” after enduring years and decades of institutionalization and attempt to educate and employ them.  We need to shower them with the training, skills, and tools they need to transform themselves into productive and successful citizens while they are on the “inside”. Operation Fresh Start ™’s “inside out approach” to creating real life-options for these souls will get the job done.


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