Who would Jesus hire?
That’s the question Father Greg Boyle asked himself many decades ago, when he became moved by the plight of gang members trapped in a cycle of crime and punishment. Think about it: if you were running a company, would you hire an applicant who’d served time for a violent felony? Well, Father Greg would ask you to consider whether each of us should be defined by the worst thing we’ve ever done in our lives, or if human beings deserve second chances.
The Jesuit priest, seeing the needless death and suffering caused by gang activity in LA many decades ago decided, in his words, that nothing stops a bullet like a job. While some tough-on-crime politicians wanted to lock up more and more people, Father Greg wanted to hook them up….with employment that could redirect the course of their lives.
So Greg started Homeboy Industries, an organization that would soon become the single largest gang rehabilitation program on earth, largely focused on job training as well as actually creating companies that would hire former gang members wanting to reenter society as productive individuals. Homeboy Industries now runs nine different companies employing 500 people, from a bakery to a silkscreen enterprise to a restaurant at LAX and even one in LA’s City Hall where, yes, former gang members serve elected officials and their staff.
So, sit back and prepare to think…think about what rehabilitation means, what second chances are about, and what the most effective way to prevent gang violence actually is.
And, oh yeah, if you listen to the whole interview, you’ll get to hear a priest use the F-word. Enjoy!
Resources discussed in this episode
G-Dog – The 2012 Documentary on Father Greg
Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, by Father Greg (NYT bestseller)
Barking the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship, by Father Greg Boyle
G-Dog and the Homeboys, Celeste Fremon’s autobiography of Father Greg (with introduction by Tom Brokaw)