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RecoveryPark fights prison system

Organization creates jobs for Detroit’s formerly incarcerated, fosters community

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Posted: Saturday, February 23, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 12:13 pm, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

According to a 2009 report by ABC News’ Tahman Bradley, that year “the unemployment rate in the city of Detroit rose to 28.9 percent.” The study also said this was “the highest rate of unemployment since Michigan started keeping modern numbers.”

Four years later, one local organization is finding work for Detroiters. “RecoveryPark exists to create jobs through innovative projects benefiting people with barriers to employment and communities in recovery,” explains their mission statement.

The organization helps released prisoners and recovering addicts find work in agriculture and urban farming to help them as they re-enter society. Founded in 2010, the organization shares the principles of its parent organization Self Help Addiction Rehabilitation, a substance abuse treatment program founded in 1969.

“In 2010, SHAR realized the RecoveryPark project had taken on a life of its own,” said President and CEO Gary Wozniak.Wozniak said the organization works to create innovative projects while helping those having trouble locating jobs.

“The number one reason prisoners return to prison is the inability to find employment,” Wozniak said. “Plants don’t care if you can’t read or write or have the right skill level. We hope that finding these people work will help them stay out of prison.”

According to the organization’s website, their ultimate goal is that, “changed lives translate into seeds being planted for transforming Detroit into more diverse and vibrant communities whose brightest days lie in the future.”

Wozniak said he knows firsthand the issues facing these newly released prisoners, as he spent over three years in prison. “I’m a recovering addict myself,” Wozniak said.

Wozniak said it’s important for these individuals to find work upon their release. “I understand recovery and the need to be comfortable in your own skin,” he said. The jobs themselves are designed to make the transition from prison to daily life on the outside an easier experience.

“While in the prison system, prisoners learn about growing their own food, dispensing their food and come out with skills to work in the food industry,” Wozniak said.

Education is an important part of the organization. Wozniak wants “the employees to build wealth by working a job.” The organization hopes that in the future “the employees take more and more control in the work, even sharing in the profits.” Wozniak believes this effort “will incubate business.”

“Job opportunities are just the beginning in the organization’s effort to revitalize the city,” Wozniak said. “We hope to bring together a number of organizations, from nonprofit and profit levels, to create dialogue for how to build a healthy community.”

With long-term goals in mind, the project plans “to also create education and support centers and build housing developments,” Wozniak said.

The organization thinks their efforts will not only benefit those gaining employment, but the city of Detroit.

“The larger density of jobs results in an increase tax base for the city. With one of the lowest in the country, Detroit needs a tax-base,” Wozniak said. He hopes these efforts will “create more business for the city.”

In addition to creating jobs throughout the city and helping those experiencing difficulty finding employment, Wozniak said he hopes the organization can have a rippling effect in the city’s overall well-being.

“With increased employment, the city will experience reduced crime, reduced social services, and a reduced prison population,” he said.

The organization encourages feedback from the community. According to their website, recoverypark.org, “We want to make sure that everybody can have an impact through RecoveryPark.”

“Those that are in need of the organization’s services should send in their resumes to the website,” Wozniak said. “We hope that in 60 to 90 days we will start getting people hired and working in the city.”

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