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.
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.
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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/