Ceciley Bradford-Jones is working toward a reentry system where providers stay in their lanes - Generocity Philly

People

Sep. 8, 2016 12:49 pm

Ceciley Bradford-Jones is working toward a reentry system where providers stay in their lanes

The Center for Employment Opportunities director has a vision for a more cohesive reentry nonprofit community, free from competitive thinking.

Ceciley Bradford-Jones.

(Courtesy photo)

When Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) scaled to Philadelphia from its headquarters in New York last summer, the reentry nonprofit had a hard time fitting in with other reentry nonprofits in town.

It didn’t make much sense to Ceciley Bradford-Jones, a seasoned reentry veteran tapped to oversee CEO when the organization received the funds to scale from venture philanthropy nonprofit GreenLight Fund Philadelphia. It seemed that there was an assumption among the existing reentry nonprofit community, the director said, that CEO would be competing against them for the same future dollars — even though it came here pre-funded.

“We came in quietly. We just kind of appeared on the playground. Not everybody wanted to play,” said Bradford-Jones, formerly an administrative director at the Pennsylvania Prison Society.

The Philadelphia native is a fierce advocate, but she’s too passionate about reform to let her ferocity hamstring potential alliances. “I’ve had to spend a lot of time reversing that [assumption],” she said.

CEO works within one piece of the incarceration reform puzzle. It knows its niche.

Here’s the thing: Even if every local nonprofit working with returning citizens “did 110 percent,” she said said, they still wouldn’t be able to touch every reentrant in the city. CEO doesn’t even try to impact every returning citizen — the organization specifically works to help find employment for high-risk parolees and reentrants upon release.

“We’re working with a person who did 15 years for an attempted homicide,” said Bradford-Jones. “Don’t send me people who were in county jail for a low-level drug offense.”

CEO works within one piece of the incarceration reform puzzle. It knows its niche, and it does the work well. It’s why the nonprofit keeps pulling in all kinds of social innovation dollars to scale its programming. Bradford-Jones would like to see other reentry nonprofits in the city embrace their own niches and follow suit to create a holistic, unified continuum for reentry in the city.

From our Partners

That starts with knowing where to look for funding.

“There’s so much expertise in the city. There’s a small pot of reentry money, but there are huge pots of literacy money, family reunification money, workforce money. They all touch reentry,” she said. “What I’d like to see is everyone get plugged into what they do well. I want Philadelphia to go to a place where reentry becomes a program for the city as a whole.”

The work Bradford-Jones says CEO had to do just to sit at the table with fellow reentry nonprofits reveals an unfortunately reality about both the prison system and the sector of nonprofits working with people coming out of it: This whole thing is a business.

“This conversation of reentry and reform, the bottom line is always going to be the bottom dollar. This is real estate,” she said. “The saddest part is that we’re talking about human beings with a per-day dollar amount attached to them. This conversation [on reentry and incarceration reform] is one that will happen in a board room with a financial figure attached to it.”

Want more richly researched and deeply sourced community reporting?  Become a Generocity member for $10 per month -30-
LEAVE A COMMENT

From our Partners

Leadership can be lonely. Learning circles help nonprofit directors find community

Power Moves: Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission announced its new head

Those holiday how-to articles on where to donate your money? Tread carefully

SPONSORED

Generocity Philly

Nonprofits and startups can win up to $360K at the WeWork Creator Awards

Philadelphia

Maternity Care Coalition

Vice President of External Affairs

Apply Now
Philadelphia, PA

HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy

President

Apply Now
The Discovery Center. 3401 Reservoir Drive. Philadelphia, PA. 19121

The Discovery Center

Audubon Apprentice, Volunteer/Community Engagement

Apply Now

Power Moves: Uva Coles left Peirce for Widener

‘A Dream Deferred’ exhibit wants to inspire visitors to ‘engage the systems that are doing you wrong’

4 unheralded Philadelphia nonprofits doing the tough, on-the-ground work

SPONSORED

Generocity Philly

12 Philly immigrants who are ready to mobilize

2557 N 5th Street, Philadelphia PA 19133

Providence Center

Development Manager

Apply Now
Doylestown

Maternity Care Coalition

Case Manager Elect

Apply Now
123 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19109

Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence

Major Gifts Officer

Apply Now

Sign-up for daily news updates from Generocity