As it prepares to build a large temple in Center City, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has agreed to donate $300,000 to the city's prisoner-reentry program.
The contribution was announced Wednesday by Mayor Nutter, who said the idea originated with the Mormon church's leadership and was not prompted by City Hall.
"We did not ask," he said, "but gladly accepted."
The lump-sum donation will be directed to the Mayor's Office of Reintegration Services for Ex-Offenders (RISE), which assists former prisoners reentering society with schooling, job training, job placement, housing, drug and alcohol treatment, and "life coaches."
The program, begun in 2005 and renamed this year, collaborates with four local churches and the group Concerned Black Men, according to Carlyn Harper, RISE's interim director. With a $1.2 million budget, it serves about 500 clients a year.
Only about 3 percent of RISE's clients are returned to prison within three years of their release, she said, citing the national average of 67 percent.
A decision has yet to be made on whether to use the money to augment existing RISE services or create new ones, said Deputy Mayor and Public Safety Director Everett Gillison.
During the news conference Wednesday, Nutter joked that "since we've not had any money since we we've been in office" - a reference to Philadelphia's budget crisis - being able to announce a budget increase for a city program was a novelty.
Last month, the mayor, joined by local Mormon leaders, announced that the city had given preliminary approval to the church's plan to build a 68,000-square-foot temple, visitor center, garden, and garage at 17th and Vine Streets.
Design drawings for the project have not been released, but groundbreaking is expected next spring, with completion in 2013.
Elder Robert B. Smith, the Mormon leader for Pennsylvania, said the decision to donate $300,000 to the city came out of the church's headquarters in Salt Lake City, although local leaders chose the project.
"We said we'd like to do something, and here's how much we'd like to give," said Smith. City officials presented the local Mormon leaders with several options, and they chose prisoner reentry because "it fits with the mission of the church."