Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald stood before a room packed with business officials yesterday and asked them to do something they probably have never considered: Hire felons. Fitzgerald said on any given day there are 4,000 Chicago police officers on the streets and an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 gang-bangers in the city, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. “How in the world can we incarcerate our way out of the problem when we are outnumbered that much?” Fitzgerald said.
Part of the answer, he said, lies with corporations, which can help sponsor after-school programs or enlist teenagers from the projects to be summer interns — or even hire felons. He urged business officials to reach out and invest in some of the most economically depressed areas of the city. They can do that, Fitzgerald said, by getting involved in Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program run through the U.S. attorney’s office in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies. The project aims to help get parolees back into society without returning to prison by helping hook them up with jobs and providing other support. Research has shown that parolees who have attended a one-hour forum held by Project Safe Neighborhoods are 30 percent less likely to return to jail.