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Podcast: Infrastructure = Economic Opportunity

On Episode 2 of Where Policy Meets People, host Kristen Rantanen explores the connection between infrastructure and economic opportunity, particularly for women. The pandemic hammered industry sectors in which women’s employment is more concentrated like restaurants, retail and healthcare.  With a national discussion around major infrastructure investment, including training to prepare jobseekers to access these good jobs, could this be an opportunity for women to thrive in an industry in which they currently make up only 10% of the labor force?  Just how does infrastructure equal economic opportunity and can these “non-traditional” employment opportunities be part of the solution?

Philadelphia’s Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, the Chair of the Delaware River Port Authority, and Leslie Richards, SEPTA General Manager, talk about the real economic (and jobs) impact of investment in bridges, transit and roads. Kathy O’Malley, SEPTA lineman, talks about finding her calling and making a good living doing a “man’s job” and Christine Bronson of JEVS’ Orleans Technical College talks about the contributions women are making in male-dominated sectors like construction.

Listen now and subscribe. Available wherever you listen to podcasts.

Podcast: Is an Inclusive Economic Recovery Possible?

On Episode 1 of Where Policy Meets People, host Kristen Rantanen explores the possibility of an inclusive economic recovery.  With unemployment at a high in the Philly Metro region — and across the country– what does a post-COVID labor market look like? Who has been hit hardest by the pandemic and how do we get them back to work?

Newly upskilled and employed Deb Sacca shares her journey of underemployment, unemployment, and a job search during a global pandemic. Fatima Martin of PA Careerlink, a one-stop career center, helps unpack the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and opportunities in public workforce system. Katie Spiker of the National Skills Coalition illustrates who has been hit hardest economically by the pandemic and shares a path towards an inclusive economic recovery. Nicole Tranchitella of Accenture discusses the important role of employers in the region’s recovery.

Listen now and subscribe. Available wherever you listen to podcasts.

Thoughts on This Week’s Violence in Washington, DC

The following is a message from Jay Spector, President and CEO, to the JEVS Human Services team. 

JEVS Team:

I am reaching out to you with some thoughts on Wednesday’s violence in Washington, DC.

I’ll start by saying that I am heartbroken.  The seditious actions of the mob that rushed the Capitol were thankfully not enough to halt our democratic process.  While it was not the peaceful transition of power imagined in the Constitution, we did wake up yesterday to news that the election results were certified and the process is complete.  In addition to the dangerous attack on our democracy, I watched the events unfold and saw yet another manifestation of our national struggle with racism.  The stark difference in the response to this violent siege and last summer’s protests for racial equity is deplorable.  I am especially moved, as I’m sure many of you are, by the profoundly important observations of Michelle Obama, “seeing the gulf between the responses to yesterday’s riot and this summer’s peaceful protests and the larger movement for racial justice is so painful. It hurts.  And I cannot think about moving on … until we reckon with the reality of what we saw yesterday.”

I am also hopeful.  The events in Washington took place following the historic election of Reverend Raphael Warnock.  Reverend Warnock is the first person of color elected to the US Senate from Georgia, a milestone to be celebrated. My biggest source of hope comes from who we are.  At JEVS, our mission is about strengthening our community and our work has never been more important.

  I know that we will continue to make hope happen at a time, frankly, when hope is needed most.

And we’ll do it together.

We are living in challenging times.  The past year has taken a toll on all of us – emotionally, physically and spiritually.  These events may have compounded stress and anxiety.  Please take care of yourself.  I encourage you to reach out to Human Resources if you would like to take advantage of services offered through our Employee Assistance Program.

Thank you for working hard on behalf of those we serve.  I am grateful every day to lead our talented JEVS team
Have a peaceful and safe weekend.

Warmest regards,


Doing the Most Good

Time, talent and treasure. Those are the words often used to describe the contributions made by volunteers at non-profit organizations. While the role of volunteers looks different these days (like most everyone else, we’re doing far less in-person), the community we serve is in more need than ever, and organizations like JEVS Human Services are relying on our volunteers to help us meet critical needs. We are grateful to all of our volunteers—individuals and corporations—who are helping us continue to make hope happen. 

Pre-COVID we had a dedicated team of volunteers who regularly worked with clients to help hone their job search skills and grow their networks.  These days, we have volunteers who are conducting virtual mock interviews and job fairs for job seeking clients, tutoring a student in our college access program, doing in-person maintenance projects at our methadone clinic, and another running weekly on-line music therapy programs for adults in our disability programs.

Volunteers are also taking on special projects. For example, a retired legal professional recorded an instructional video on courtroom etiquette for our court diversion program, and our partners at Citizens Bank are conducting financial literacy workshops for our program participants. Individuals and corporate teams from Vanguard, State Farm, Rivers Casino, Macquarie, Enterprise have all stepped up to lend their time and talent.

Emily Dones of Rivers Casino sums up the reason they are committed to JEVS:

“What is really meaningful is knowing that we are making a difference on the ground, where people need help the most.  That is what keeps our hearts open to JEVS.”

JEVS has been the recipient of many essential items for the families and individuals we serve.  Over the past several months donations have included diapers, baby gear, new adult and children’s clothing, non-perishable food, and much more. The importance of donations like this can’t be underestimated, especially with the challenges of the pandemic.

Just ask Natalie, recent recipient of new baby gear and diapers:

“Thank you for the wonderful gifts you gave me and my son.  I truly appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to help me. I also want to say thank you to the people who give donations to the JEVS program as a whole because without you guys a lot of families who need those donations would be in a really bad place.”

Thanks to our partners at Marshalls Distribution Center, we held Operation Coat Check in December, collecting and sorting 700 new coats at our Orleans Technical College location for JEVS families. In addition to Marshalls, our in-kind donors include Aetna Better Health, AmeriHealth Caritas, Banana Republic, Bombas, Fresh Grocer, Giant, Mitzvah Circle, National Foam, Rivers Casino and Walmart.

Want to get involved?  Contact us and let us know your interests.  We’ll match you to a volunteer effort that will make you feel good—and help those among us struggling most during these challenging times.


Let’s Get Philly to Work

by Jay Spector, President & CEO 

The pandemic and recession are hitting many people hard—taking jobs and financial security away and threatening vulnerable families in the Philadelphia region. As a member of the JEVS community, you know many of our neighbors are already living on the edge and face challenges finding work in the best of times.

This is a crisis like never before, and to meet it, JEVS is launching a response like never before—the Let’s Get Philly to Work campaign. Our ambitious 3-part plan builds on JEVS’ successful programs to help job seekers build skills to enter—or re-enter—the job market, plus the wraparound services families need at this most critical time.

Our plan will:

  • Ramp up skills training and job readiness programs
  • Close the digital divide by providing laptops, tablets, and instruction in using them
  • Help with basic necessities—so the focus can be on employment

So why JEVS? We have an 80-year track record helping people prepare for, find and keep good jobs.  Right now, we have the right mix of services designed to help our region build skills and get ahead.  If you are a regular reader of e-Inside JEVS, you know that we quickly pivoted our in-person services and found new and creative ways to support our students, job seekers and clients.  Our challenge is making sure that we can meet demand.   Frankly, we have never seen a situation like the one we face today but I know we can deliver the services most needed.  

Speaking of challenge, if you would like to join us in our Let’s Get to Work plan, you can make a gift of any size here.  With your generosity, we will rise to meet the moment.

Together, we can make a powerful difference in the lives of so many people. Let’s get to work.



Improving on Success: TCY Evaluation Points to New Services

By Nigel Bowe, Executive Director of Diversion Services, JEVS Human Services
& Jennifer Thompson, Director, Equal Measure

Tasheed Carr is a doting father who had had a successful college basketball career at Saint Joseph’s University and a professional career in an NBA development league overseas, but a series of setbacks found him facing a five-year prison sentence for first-time felony drug sales. The Choice is Yours (TCY), a Philadelphia-based diversion program, gave him an opportunity to undo what he calls “the biggest mistake of my life.” Today, he has a clean record and is running a youth development organization and coaching up-and-coming basketball players.

Developed in 2012 by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office in partnership with the Defender Association of Philadelphia and the Municipal Court, TCY is modeled on Back on Track, a program developed in San Francisco under California’s former Attorney General, Kamala Harris. Operated by JEVS Human Services, TCY offers young people education and employment services and a chance for them to re-envision their future through a one-year alternative to trial and sentencing for first-time, non-violent drug offenses. The program was recently expanded to Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County.

In 2019, JEVS collaborated with national evaluation firm Equal Measure to conduct an evaluation of the program. Although TCY was already a successful program that engaged its participants and reduced recidivism, JEVS sought to better understand the “special sauce” that made it work, assessing the core strengths of the program and discovering opportunities to make the program even stronger. Key questions the evaluation asked were: What factors contribute to successful completion of TCY for participants? What is it about the program and/or the participants or other factors that contribute to program effectiveness?

Although the TCY staff was initially wary of the evaluation, fearing the evaluators were there to find failings in the program, the findings and recommendations have been well-received. When staff read the report, they thought “wow, this is us.” It gave us a clearer understanding of what we were doing right and things we could do better, and we responded by using the flexibility and creative thinking that has made us a successful program.

Highlights and Opportunities

Overall, the evaluation found that TCY was a highly successful program, and highlighted two core strengths of the program.

The first was the quality of the program infrastructure and approach, including a defined orientation phase, flexibility in implementation and responsiveness to the needs of the participants, and the ability of JEVS as a large nonprofit with a broad set of social services and expertise to offer holistic supports to participants.

Strategic and emotional attention to partnerships and relationships was the second core strength of the program. Well-defined partnerships with justice system and city offices, a secondary education provider, and a network of local employers benefitted participants, and the deep relationships formed between TCY staff and participants was integral to participant engagement and program completion. “It’s a family…that’s the best word,” said one participant interviewed for the evaluation.

Equal Measure’s findings and recommendations also presented opportunities to refine the program. First, although most participants expressed appreciation for the employment assistance, and considered it a step in the right direction for their lives, many of the jobs were low wage, lacked benefits, and offered no clear opportunities for advancement. Second, even though part of the incentive for participants to join TCY was the opportunity to have the felony charge expunged from their records, few TCY participants took advantage of it.

The quality of the entry-level jobs secured by TCY participants was familiar to program staff but prompted new thinking on more ways for participants to enter and advance in fields with a promising future. The expungement findings were new. Clearly, increasing the number of participants who would have their records cleared was an urgent need that called for creative solutions.

Clearing the Record

Without TCY, the young people who opt into the program would face the possibility of prison sentences and a permanent felony record, making employment, housing assistance, and other social services extremely difficult to access, potentially for their entire lives. Graduation from TCY and a full year without an arrest keeps participants from having a felony conviction on their record. In Pennsylvania, however, an arrest, charges from an arrest, and/or a conviction stay on the record, and although it is not public, the record is available to police, prosecutors, and organizations using FBI records for background investigations.

Erasing arrests and charges requires expungement, a legal order requiring the cooperation of the court, police, and state criminal justice agencies. TCY makes participants eligible to have their records expunged and permanently cleared one year after graduating from the program so long as they have not been re-arrested in that time. Yet the evaluation found that few graduates took advantage of expungement.

Although the evaluation did not assess the reasons why graduates did not pursue expungement, it was clear several factors were at play: participants were not knowledgeable enough about the process and its value, and there was little follow up with graduates in the one year post-program, which is when they would become eligible for expungement. Increasing the number of TCY graduates with successfully expunged records is now an important goal for TCY, and we immediately initiated several reforms to the program to encourage TCY graduates to take this step.

To make participants more knowledgeable about the value and process of expungement, TCY is partnering with Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE). TCY will sponsor two clinics conducted by PLSE, one for participants as they first enter the program and one in the orientation phase, so participants will understand the importance and the benefits of getting their cases not just dismissed but also expunged.

TCY has also added a third phase of the program: in addition to an enrollment phase and an orientation phase, the program will now have an official expungement phase post-graduation, where participants are contacted monthly by the program. The participants are not required to stay engaged with TCY, but we hope a regular friendly check-in from TCY’s staff to see how things are going and to offer any needed services will be an additional incentive to avoid re-arrest and to pursue expungement.

Our hope is that the enhanced education on expungement, expanded follow up, and assistance from PLSE will result in many more successful TCY graduates benefitting from their arrests being entirely erased from their records.

Refocus on Education and Credentials

Equal Measure’s evaluation findings on the limited employment horizons for TCY participants prompted additional thinking on the program’s current educational training. TCY had an existing partnership with Penn Foster, an accredited online high school completion program and career training school, offering participants without a high school diploma the chance to complete it during the program. But the evaluation findings persuaded us that something more needed to be done. lthough nearly 75% of our participants were placed in employment, the evaluation made clear many participants needed more training if they were going to make a career path for themselves that offered more than a low-wage job.

We worked with our education partner to choose educational sectors with high potential for solid career opportunities and which we believed would appeal to participants: medical, construction, and information technology. Participants will now have a chance to earn a credential in one of these fields.

Now, when a participant enrolls to earn his or her high school diploma, he or she is also able to add in electives geared towards earning a career pathway credential. After the high school program is complete, they will have a few additional weeks to complete the certificate credential in one of those four areas. For example, one of the credentials will be pharmacy technician which partners for job placement with CVS and Walgreen’s.

The credentialing opportunity will be heavily promoted to eligible incoming participants, whether they enter the program with a high school diploma or are completing it with help from the program.

We’re hoping that adding the career pathway credential capability to our high school completion program will allow our graduates to get a good job with a wage that will support them and their families, and which gives them an opportunity for more pay and career advancement. Along with a new focus on clearing their records, we believe TCY will offer even more value to the participants who turn to us for a second chance. Thanks to the evaluation, we had an opportunity to take tangible steps to address issues of equity and economic opportunity affecting our participants, aligning with the larger social justice goals of TCY and JEVS Human Services.


The Results Are In! TCY is Making a Major Impact for Young Offenders

The results are in! JEVS Human Services recently partnered with Equal Measure to conduct a third-party evaluation of our successful The Choice is Yours (TCY).

Launched in February 2012, TCY is adapted from Back on Track, a program developed in San Francisco as a one-year alternative to trial and sentencing for first-time, non-violent drug offenses.  The evaluation of TCY highlights several important impacts:

  • Re-arrest rates for TCY participants are almost half those of a comparison cohort.  The program boasts a 15% recidivism rate, one-year post graduation.  More importantly, less than 17% of graduates had a felony conviction five years post-program.
  • Justice system impacts include cost savings through reduced incarceration rates and shifting judicial system leaders’ perceptions about the efficacy diversion programs.

No less important are the participant outcomes.  The thirteen-month program boasts an 82% graduation rate.  Nearly three-quarters of the participants found and kept jobs during the program, with most being full-time employment.  One in five participants took advantage of educational and skill-building opportunities, including high school diploma completion.

They gave us opportunities that we would never have had in our entire lives. I would not have gotten my diploma this year if not for TCY. I’d probably be in jail if it wasn’t for TCY. It’s taught me so many things since the first day I’ve been here.  – TCY graduate

The report found several factors contributing to the success of the program including (1) the strong partnership between the Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney, judicial system, Defenders Association of Philadelphia and JEVS; (2) the month-long orientation allowing both participants and partners to determine if the program is a good fit for the client and setting them up for success; (3) the holistic case management approach; and (4) the balance of flexibility and accountability in design and implementation.

Learn more by downloading the Executive Summary and Evaluation One-pager.

Strength in Numbers, a Message to the JEVS Human Services Team

A message to the JEVS Human Services team from Jay Spector, President and CEO.

JEVS Team:

As I’m writing this, I’m reflecting on another heartbreaking chapter in our national struggle with racism.  I’m thinking about injustice.  I’m worried about our city, our families and those we serve.  It has been a difficult few months, followed by an anguishing week, capped off by violence across our own community and country.  All of this as our frontline staff struggled over the past few days with the aftermath of the riots, curfews and road closures to make their way to work. It seems an understatement to say that we have had some tough days.

So what are we to do?  How can we find the energy to move forward? I think part of the answer lies in remembering that we aren’t alone.  Yesterday, I received a message from Nicki Woods, director of our CareerLink, that read in part, “this was a tough weekend for all of us that came with a lot of mixed emotions. A true flashback to the 1960s. We shall overcome. People walked hand in hand, side by side. Hoping to one day be free. They weren’t alone or afraid. The whole world around. Yes, we shall overcome one day.”

Nicki’s words reminded me of my early days of working for social justice, of being part of a movement bigger than just one person.  Her words also reminded me of our mission at JEVS.  Together, we make hope happen.  We aren’t in it alone. We walk side by side, helping those we serve find opportunity to live  fully realized and connected lives. And in this work lies the seeds of justice and a better world.

So while the world seems especially dark, let’s continue to walk side by side and support positive activities that seek to bring light and attention to the need for equality, justice and real change. There is strength in numbers – in our community and at JEVS Human Services.

Today is primary day, an opportunity to further change by voting for people who reflect your values and will work on your behalf to create change. Please exercise your right to vote.  Get to the polls if you haven’t mailed your ballot.

Stay safe!


Volunteer Opportunity: Send Some Encouragement

Do you, your children or grandchildren want to help brighten someone’s day while we’re all staying home to stay safe?  Do you have access paper, pens, crayons, markers?

We have an opportunity for you!

JEVS Human Services has community homes that support adults with disabilities.  Like all of us, they are getting restless at home — and they LOVE to get mail.

  • Send cards or notes to our residents with words of encouragement.
  • Send homemade art work.

Not an artist?  Ask your children or grandchildren to draw bright and cheery pictures.  The sun, grass, trees and flowers are great subjects — anything that makes you happy.

Mail your notes and homemade artwork to us and we’ll hand deliver to our community homes.

Mail to JEVS Human Services, 9350 Ashton Road, Suite 201                                                        Philadelphia, PA 19114   Attn: Eleni Krystopa

Re-entering The Fray: Skilled America Podcast

As cities and states seek to reduce their jail and prison populations to slow the spread of COVID-19, already stretched re-entry programs are working to address increased demand for their services.

For their Skilled America podcast, the National Skills Coalition spoke to our Jeff Abramowitz, Executive Director of Reentry Services at JEVS, and Darnell Manuel, a participant in our Looking Forward Philadelphia program, about the how they’re dealing with the increased demand and the challenges brought to bear by the pandemic.

Fifty-two-year-old Darnell Manuel has a bachelors degree in communications with a minor in business. After experiencing incarceration, he found JEVS’ re-entry program.

“When you have a criminal background, and you get in front of people…you feel like there’s a swinging pendulum ready to knock you down before you can say a word,” he said.  But JEVS Human Services has changed his outlook.

“They make it comfortable for you to come here and comfortable to say, you know what, I might have another chance at life,” he said. “I might have another chance to raise my child or grandchild, maybe one day have a 401K.”

> Listen to the podcast
> Read the companion piece on Medium
> Download a PDF of the article


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