D.C. City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker yesterday criticized the city's Manpower Department as a "Crippled" agency that shortchanges the unemployed in general and persons with police records in particular.
Tucker, speaking to an American University conference on the link between crime and unemployment, said the District's manpower effort is kept "on its knees" by inadequate planning, lack of accountability, information gaps and "administrative chaos"
Of the city's three principal elected officials who were invited, only Tucker appeared at the conference called by the university law school's employment and crime project. Mayor Walter E. Washington and Del. Walter Fauntroy sent representatives.
Some key participants in the gathering of about 40 criminal justice and employment experts said they had heard it all before and doubted the discussion would produce any solutions.
"We come in and have conferences and make recommendations," said Mickey Perry of the National Alliance of Businessmen. "They're published and put in a binder to gather dust."
Even Tucker, after rapping the mayor's administration on its record of aiding ex-offenders, warned that "workshops will go on and will be of no value unless you help us get some focus on this problem."
The District has 87,000 ex-offenders who need special services in getting jobs, according to Tucker, "A system that isn't working well for the general population cannot work for the es-offender," he said.
From hearings on the city's man-power effort last April and from his staff's research. Tucker said he discovered that the Manpower Department has only one worker among its 500 who specializes in counseling, training and placing ex-offenders.
Tucker called for passage of a bill to give the Council oversight on $250 million in annual federal grants to the city. Some $60 million of that amount makes up nearly 99 per cent of the District's manpower budget and it is poorly spent, Tucker charged.
Tucker also urged an expanded work release and furlough program by the Department of Corrections and improvements in the Department of Human Resources' job training program for juvenile offenders.
Johnny Barnes, an assistant to Fauntroy, blamed "the stigma of criminality" and racial discrimination for a rate of unemployment that he said is three times higher for ex-offenders than among the general public.
Barnes said "economic necessity, rather than depravity," appears as the most frequent cause of crime, because 93 per cent of reported offenses are for "small money" such as robbery and property violations. But such offenders suffer the same penalties when they become ex-offenders as do "hard core" criminals, he said.
"We're sitting on a powder keg" of potential crime related to joblessness, said Department of Corrections director Delbert C. Jackson the mayor's stand-in.
Of the 7,000 persons in his agency's custody, "not all of them are going to return to the community rehabilitated," he said.
Jackson, who left the all day meeting alter 90 minutes, said he was concerned that the conference "is not going to solve anything. What do we do after today?"
Leon Lieberg director of the employment and crime project, countered that "we are not going to have another Mickey Mouse conference."
Lieberg said he was "disturbed" by Jackson's early departure. "He represents the mayor. We have specific questions and we want to give him (the mayor) specific demands," Lieberg said.