Philadelphia pizzeria gives second chance to former prisoners

Morning In America

(NewsNation Now) — Muhammed Abdul-Hadi has had a vision of a different kind of pizza shop, serving up more than just pizza — helping Philadelphians get a new slice of life.

In March 2019, he combined his love for pizza and passion for serving the community, opening Down North Pizza in the heart of North Philadelphia. The mission-led restaurant exclusively employs formerly incarcerated men and women in an effort to reduce the recidivism rate in their city.

“Somebody had to come in and change and make some steps toward bettering the community and combating recidivism because we all know the lack of resources is what lands these guys back in prison,” Abdul-Hadi said on NewsNation’s “Morning in America” Tuesday.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, employment helps to decrease the likelihood of incarceration after prison release. And at Down North, it’s more than just pizza; it’s about bringing humanity back.

“Ex-cons — I like to refrain from that term because, you know, and an ex-con means that once you get to of prison that you’re no longer a convict, unfortunately, you’re a convict for life, you know, that’s how they’re viewed in society,” Abdul-Hadi said. “So, that’s what we wanted to change the stigma behind those terminologies and kind of rehumanize people.”

Overall, Abdul-Hadi is focused on uplifting his community through his craft.

“I seen countless businesses coming into the neighborhood and not actually doing anything to benefit the neighborhood, so that’s something I wanted to do the opposite of,” Abdul-Hadi explained. “So coming up with the framework for Down North and how we can benefit the neighborhood and recidivism is one of the things that played the community at large — so why not make some good pizza and only hire people that cannot get jobs in the regular workforce.”

Watch the full interview in the media player above.

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