Philadelphia’s Down North Pizza is famous for its Detroit-style square pies and secret, smoky tomato sauce, but back in the kitchen, the restaurant is doing more than just churning out great pizza. It’s also offering employment opportunities for the formerly incarcerated.
Philadelphia has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, with Down North’s neighborhood specifically seeing 1,000 people returning from prison. Unfortunately, employment restrictions and hesitation from businesses mean that many individuals have a tough time finding jobs and getting back on their feet.
Seeing this issue, Down North owner Muhammad Abdul-Hadi made it his mission to not only employ formerly-incarcerated individuals but also encourage other businesses to do the same. “We have over 60 years of jail time in the kitchen,” he told NPR. “We are all living proof that you can build a business around the formerly incarcerated.”
Down North Pizza starts all workers at a $15 per hour wage and also has two apartments available above the restaurant for staff who have trouble finding housing. The restaurant also hires a pro bono attorney to help employees with parole issues and agreements.
On top of the tangible resources for employees, the pizza shop also gives workers the freedom to accept their past and not feel the need to hide their history from fellow workers or the shop. For many who have had to lie about incarceration to find employment in the past, the sense of acceptance is freeing.
Image source: Down North Pizza