The aisles and shelves in the warehouse at PAR-Recycle Works in North Philadelphia are covered in discarded electronic devices. There are old computers, printers, routers, charging cables, and more. While this stuff may seem like junk to many, to the people employed at Recycle Works, it represents something bigger — the chance to start over. “There are still valuable parts in these things,” said founder Maurice Jones, who goes by Q. “There are still valuable parts that are in people that are coming home from prison and jail. We are the polisher of those parts…we show them that there’s still value in themselves, just as in these things that have once been thrown away.”

Jones founded PAR-Recycle Works — which stands for People Advancing Reintegration — in 2016. He wanted to address two big problems: the increase in electronic waste and the difficulty that people coming out of prison face when trying to find employment and support. “Our thought process of this inception of this social justice and environmental justice sandwich is to assist individuals that are coming home to land softly and upskill themselves,” said Jones, all while preventing usable electronic parts from ending up in the landfill.

Recycle Works employs formerly incarcerated people anywhere for four to nine months; the time varies person to person, since everyone’s reentry journey is different. Employees typically start by sorting devices, then learn how to deconstruct electronics for valuable materials such as gold and copper, and can progress to driving vehicles and interfacing with the general public.

To read the full story, visit
Author: Elizabeth Estrada, WHYY PBS
Image: Kimberly Paynter, WHYY PBS