- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The New Orleans Downtown Development District has unveiled a program that will provide incentives for companies that seek to hire homeless individuals and ex-convicts.

The New Orleans Advocate (https://bit.ly/1gprETH) reports that The New Paths Initiative aims to reduce recidivism and unemployment by providing incentives for companies to employ people struggling to find their way back into the workforce.

“The statistics are really stark - 52 percent of folks getting out of jail today are going back in three years,” said Kurt Weigle, president and CEO of the Downtown Development District. “It’s time to interrupt the cycle, and the DDD welcomes the opportunity to play its part.”

According to Weigle, national recidivism statistics show that people in prison are not getting the skills needed to go directly to work. And once they get out, he said, they’re not making “an honest go of it,” either out of choice or because no one gives them a chance. That, in turn, means criminals burden society with a “lot of hidden costs.”

“We as a community cannot turn a blind eye on this,” Weigle added, pointing to U.S. Department of Justice research showing that keeping more than 2 million adults locked up in state and federal prisons cost $80 billion in 2010. “While each of these impacts individuals and families, we all pay in the form of higher taxes and decreased quality of life.”

Weigle said he’s following the lead of local U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite and Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who both have championed reducing recidivism and offering jobs to ex-convicts.

“We do not expect the DDD by itself to solve this problem, but we do hope other organizations will see what we’re doing and jump on board,” Weigle said.

The district’s initiative will formally begin Aug. 1 and is broken down into two programs.

The first, called Back in Stride, is part of the DDD’s commitment to ending homelessness in New Orleans. As part of it, the district has advocated for creation of permanent supportive housing, the hiring of a full-time outreach worker and building of a new homeless shelter.

The second program, the Second Chance, is aimed at getting jobs for ex-offenders who might normally be considered unemployable because of a felony conviction. A screening process will evaluate the type of crime committed, when it happened and the victim impact.

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Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, https://www.neworleansadvocate.com

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