The Lead

‘I wanted to better myself’: Philly DA’s resource program offering a path away from violence goes mobile

By: - November 9, 2021 10:22 am

Don ‘Ike’ Jones, a formerly incarcerated person who now works for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, speaks during a news conference on Monday, 11/8/21 (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

By Brian Saunders

PHILADELPHIA —  Standing in front of the podium in the District Attorney’s office, Don “Ike” Jones recalled being arrested for murder as a 17-year-old and how he used his time in prison to better himself.

“At age 17, I was arrested for first-degree murder and spent 26 years in prison for that crime,” Jones said. “My main thing in prison, it was positive, I wanted to better myself. I remember the first time I realized my sentence. I was 19 at the time. I was a kid. That got me on a straight path to better myself.”

Jones received a college degree and started doing advocacy work while in prison.

In 2019, the  Philadelphia native from the Nicetown section was released from prison due to a Supreme Court ruling that made mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders unconstitutional.

Jones has made the most of his second opportunity at life and owes his newest job opportunity to the One-Stop Job and Resource Hub, a program run by Chief G. Lamar Stewart of the Community Engagement Unit at the D.A.’s office. He now works in the D.A.’s Office.

The One-Stop Job and Resource Hub offers Philadelphians the opportunity to meet with employers as a way to get them access to jobs they otherwise would not have.

“It’s a continuation of some work that’s been done now for quite some time, involving Mr. Stewart, involving Mr. Jones and various other people,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said.

“Those who have gone to locations where young people are congregating to talk to them and to try to see if they are looking for a way away from violence and away from crime. And what they’re finding is yes, they are, they are absolutely. So this is part of the idea behind trying to do the monthly one-stop job and resource hub in a mobile way,” he said.

Unique to the way the program was run before the upcoming event Nov. 10, Jones’ team and job partners will be on location in a mobile unit providing in-neighborhood on-the-ground opportunities for jobs.

“What’s literally unique and different about this upcoming one-stop is that our first time doing it mobile,” Stewart said.

“And essentially, we will have employers and other social service providers and victim advocates riding around the city with us to various locations, specifically to communities that have been impacted by gun violence over the last several years,” he said.

Jones started his job as a crime intervention specialist  July 7 and has had boots on the ground going across all of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve been in the streets doing work,” he said. “The whole month of August, we went to every neighborhood in the city. I must say that in every place we went through during that month, there were no homicides. So we know resources coming through the community will stop crime.”

Krasner also discussed gun violence and crime prevention strategies that his office is taking. The year-to-date homicide total is 471, 12% higher than 2020.

“Obviously, that’s very disturbing. But I would point out that we were at about 36% a couple of months ago,” he said. “So, at least to some extent, it has been going in a better direction.”

Brian Saunders is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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