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When Everyone Is a Felon, Who Will Do the Work?

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 West Virginia has the lowest workforce participation rate in the country – under 50 percent. It also has a rising number of ex-felons who are almost un-employable.

Pastor Matthew Watts of the HOPE Community Development Corporation says these two trends are directly related – and we can’t deal with employment until we stop “over-incarcerating” low-income and black people for non-violent drug crimes.

Watts also says the lack of employment is leading to a crisis in marriage – one that’s devastating low-income communities, white and black in West Virginia.

This week, we speak to Watts about his rise from a single-parent household in the coalfields, to a college degree and engineering career before he went into the ministry and community development full time. This is part one of a two-part interview with Watts.

Subscribe to "The Front Porch" podcast on iTunes or however you listen to podcasts.

An edited version of “The Front Porch” airs Fridays at 4:50 p.m. on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s radio network, and the full version is available above.

Share your opinions with us about these issues, and let us know what you'd like us to discuss in the future. Send a tweet to @radiofinn or @wvpublicnews, or e-mail Scott at sfinn @ wvpublic.org

The Front Porch is underwritten by The Charleston Gazette Mail, providing both sides of the story on its two editorial pages. Check it out:http://www.wvgazettemail.com/


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