Supporting entrepreneurs who have been impacted by incarceration

In America, a prison sentence all too often confers a lifetime stigma. Even after people have served their time, a criminal record can stand in their way of finding employment, due to a number of barriers, including formal job training, limited housing options, and lack of support for substance addiction or mental health issues, among others. In fact, 60 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals remain unemployed one year after their release. Because of the challenges associated with reentry in the workforce, entrepreneurship is often the most viable economic pathway for formerly incarcerated individuals – it creates opportunities for those with a criminal record to live with dignity, realize their potential, and return to their communities and families as leaders and role models. As part of John Legend’s mission to create thriving, just, and equitable communities, Unlocked Futures provides individuals who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system the opportunity to unlock their potential. In 2017, FREEAMERICA launched Unlocked Futures, an accelerator program that provides social entrepreneurs with a grant, tools, mentorship, and strategic support to help grow their businesses. In partnership with New Profit and founding support from Bank of America, we seek to redefine what success looks like, what a business owner looks like, and who a valuable member of a community can be.