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Project counters appeal of gangs with jobs

Jobs Not Jails is both a slogan and an organization.

Jobs not Jails

Theo shows Jobs Not Jails merchandise.

The logo appears on clothing and accessories to create community awareness while it deters gang life by providing jobs for young people in West Central Spokane through Project HOPE (Helping Our young People Excel).

“Too often, ‘gang’ has become a four-letter word no one wants to talk about.  Our goal is to help people find constructive ways to talk about gangs and to help young people choose viable options—especially employment as an economic incentive—to reduce the appeal of gang life,” said Pat Copeland-Malone, who is coordinating several efforts at workforce development in the neighborhood through Project HOPE.

Jobs not Jails logos are printed on T-shirts, tank tops, coats, handbags, tote bags, hats, work shirts, dress denim, sweatshirts and other items on display at the Book Parlor, 1414 W. Broadway.  Organizers are seeking other outlets.

Pat said they will also produce shirts for the Riverfront Farm Project and God’s Gym, which re-opened in early August at Salem Lutheran Church, 1428 W. Broadway with five former gang members serving as volunteers.

“Nothing stops a bullet like a job,” said Pat.

Other workforce development programs he is encouraging include a Youth Entrepreneurship Program and a Youth Landscape Business, as well as the Riverfront Farm Project.

He also is researching what other products to produce  in partnership with other outlets, including churches.

“As we mature, we will learn more about what people will buy and will find more ways to involve youth in building skills and leadership,” he said,

He believes that churches will become interested in the social justice aspects of the anti-gang effort.

God’s Gym, which operated in the 1990s at Central United Methodist Church downtown, is an avenue for drawing youth into recreation and awareness of alternatives to gang life.

Having former gang members who are now in school and employed engaged in the effort makes it more credible, Pat said.  Their stories of turning their lives around can motivate young people more than a nonprofit director or counselor can.

For information, call 280-1702.