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

Apr 15, 2016

Pastor Matthew Watts says the decline in marriage, employment and felony arrests are all connected.

 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.

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