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Posted under: News Business

John Legend Is Giving A Voice To The Voiceless, Backing Startups Launched By Former Inmates

Unlocked Futures is a 16-month program for entrepreneurs who have been incarcerated or otherwise impacted by the criminal justice system.

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Recently, we expressed our giddiness over John Legend and Chrissy Teigen's upcoming new baby. This time, Legend is "birthing" a different kind of project, and it's a dope way of paying it forward.  

According to Fast Company, Legend's criminal justice reform initiative FreeAmerica and nonprofit philanthropic fund New Profit have teamed up to launch Unlocked Futures, a 16-month program for entrepreneurs who have been incarcerated or otherwise impacted by the criminal justice system.

“For 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 – the power of creating a community that is a counterweight to that isolation can’t be overstated,” said Tulaine Montgomery, New Profit’s managing partner.

A small group of entrepreneurs sat at the program's first roundtable with Legend to discuss their direct experiences with the criminal justice system and how they're using their organizations to create real change. 

One of the eight entrepreneurs, Teresa Hodge, spoke on the process of applying for jobs post-incarceration. She gave the example of having to answer the “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” question and the screen going black, automatically informing her that she was disqualified for the job.

“That’s how blatant the discrimination is,” said Hodge. “Entrepreneurship is important because we may not get jobs. ... We’re hiring ourselves. It’s out of necessity.” Hodge is the founder of Mission: Launch nonprofit, which assists formerly incarcerated people through training so that they can effectively reenter the workforce.

Watch footage from the roundtable below! 


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