Ron Cuie, director of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s Office for the Reentry of Ex-Offenders, must take a drug test today, just like the other ex-cons, says Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Monica Yant Kinney. He must show that he’s chipping away at $100,000 in restitution owed for torturing and nearly beating a man to death. Who better than an enterprising ex-con to convince employers – not to mention the city’s own Personnel Department – that hiring former inmates makes more sense than shunning them?
Cuie, 53, knows the issue inside and out, having served three years after being convicted in 2000 of robbery, aggravated assault, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, and criminal conspiracy. Since his release in 2003, Cuie has worked with the state Department of Corrections and other agencies on reentry issues. “I’ve worked in international business and for two mayors, and I never saw guys as smart as those I met when I was locked up,” he says. “Their survival skills are transferable. They are marketers. They solve problems.” Each year, 35,000 offenders return to Philadelphia. At any given time, the city is home to 200,000 people with criminal records. For most, the job options are few. Ex-cons with drug convictions are legally barred from jobs at airports and nursing homes or as security guards. Nurses can be denied a license for committing a felony, taxi drivers refused a medallion.