John Legend is continuing to fight the injustices of the criminal justice system. This time, by helping individuals affected by the system to elevate their careers as entrepreneurs.
Recently, Legend's criminal justice reform initiative called FreeAmerica, and the nonprofit organization New Profit have teamed up to launch Unlocked Futures. Under this 16-month program, entrepreneurs who have been incarcerated or in some way affected by the criminal justice system will be awarded coaching and $50,000 in funding for their business, reports Fast Company.
Tulaine Montgomery, New Profit's managing partner says the program’s goal is to target this core group of entrepreneurs "who are often overextended and under-resourced, who are often isolated, who rarely have a place where they can talk openly about what they’re up against." She adds that the power of creating a community through a program like Unlocked Futures can’t be overstated.
The program, which is backed by a $500,000 grant from Bank of America, is for entrepreneurs who have a clear idea of their mission and the need they are trying to address. It’s not for entrepreneurs who are just starting out and looking for their business idea to be solidified.
"We wanted people who had an agenda and a mission that was directed toward that community of formerly incarcerated people and people who are vulnerable who we want to prevent from getting caught up in the system again, or in the first place," says Legend. "So all of the entrepreneurs we're supporting meet that criteria."
Unlocked Future's inaugural class consisted of eight entrepreneurs who met with Legend and Montgomery earlier this month at an event that celebrated their participation in the program.
Teresa Hodge, an entrepreneur who was selected for the program, talks to Fast Company about how critical Unlocked Future’s is in helping former criminals get back on their feet."Entrepreneurship is important because we may not get jobs," she says. “We’re hiring ourselves. It’s out of necessity."