The Cycle of Poverty

Memphis is an urbanized, densely populated city of approximately 651,000. It is the second most populated city in Tennessee with 25.1% of residents living below the poverty line. The overall crime rate in 2020 was 15,287.2 reported incidents per 100,000 people. Additionally, the Memphis workforce is among the nation’s poorest and lowest skilled, driving the area’s high poverty and unemployment rates.

Violent Crime

With a violent crime rate of 2,395 crimes per 100,000 people and about 332 murders in 2020, Memphis is one of the most violent cities in America. The violent crime rate in Memphis is 180% higher than the TN average and 350% higher than the national average.

Soaring Prison Population

The Shelby County Division of Corrections releases approximately 6,000 returning citizens back to Memphis and Shelby County communities each year, many of whom served time for felony convictions. Shelby County (which includes the City of Memphis) sends more adult felons to state prisons or local jail than any other county in the state (2,400 in FY2014) and is the county of conviction for the greatest number of felon inmates (nearly 5,200 in FY2014).

Recidivism Rates

These circumstances result in a relatively high rate of recidivism (re-arrest, re-conviction, or return to prison within three years) approximately 27.9% over a three year period (2018-2020). The Hope 2 Hire program wants to change those statistics by providing the opportunity for inmates to receive in-demand employment training, life skills to manage work and family stressors, and to reenter their communities successfully with support and stability.

A Call to Action

Community members became aware of these dramatic statistics and wanted to provide new pathways for ex-felons to return to their communities as productive citizens. They brought together partners who could help develop and implement these new career paths for those incarcerated at the Shelby County Division of Corrections. They secured funding for the new program, and Hope 2 Hire was born.

By addressing the participant’s criminogenic as well as job readiness needs, directing clients towards jobs within demand sectors, providing them with mentoring, and linking them to relevant education providers, the Hope 2 Hire program aims to dramatically improve long-term employment and reduce recidivism in Memphis and Shelby County’s reentry population.