With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
It's no secret that finding a job after being released from prison is an often insurmountable task, leading to skyrocketing recidivism rates across the country. While many companies are hesitant to hire the formerly incarcerated, a number of enterprises are taking a chance on these men and women -- and, in turn, giving them a second chance at life.
“Here in California we have two problems – our landfills are overflowing, and our prisons are overflowing. We believe that we can help solve these two problems by creating green job prison reentry programs,” Kabira Stokes, co-founder of Isidore Electronics Recycling, said in 2013. After around two years in operation, the company now employs more than a dozen people with plans to expand.
In addition to helping out with funding, the restaurant also serves as a training space for residents trying to get back on their feet. "All tips are considered donations, and all restaurant proceeds after food costs go directly to house, feed and clothe our residents and teach all skills, values and attitudes needed for a successful drug-free and crime-free life in the mainstream society," the foundation says on its website.
Although Andrews' mission is a pertinent one, he clearly doesn't take the whole thing too seriously: Along with the fun (and fabulously alliterated) name, Felony Franks' menu includes items like the "misdemeanor wiener."
"RecycleForce helps ex-offenders break down the barriers to employment by providing transitional jobs for up to six months, as well as comprehensive services designed to get their lives back on track ... This 'wrap-around' approach greatly increases the chance of sustained future employment and decreases the instances of re-offending," the company writes on its website.
In addition to organic, non-GMO ingredients, the company has another secret: One in three of its employees is a convicted felon. "Through our partner enrichment program, we're helping our employees build hard and soft skills to enhance their lives after incarceration," the company says on its website.
New York City startup Drive Change is currently building a fleet of food trucks that serve fresh and tasty fare while employing young people with criminal records.
In addition to providing hands-on work experience and transferrable skills, Drive Change works to place its employees in permanent positions – lowering recidivism rates for young people who are treated as adults in the criminal justice system from 70 percent to 20 percent for program participants, according to the startup. All sales from Drive Change food trucks recycle back into the organization to subsidize re-entry programs.
Since 2009, the organization has built more than 250 edible permaculture gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area, worked with three high-schools to develop food justice curriculum, and created 11 green jobs for men transitioning from prison in the food justice movement.
This ad agency based in Los Angeles is a prime example: All but one of the agency's 15 employees are recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. The agency has grown a pool of 30 regular accounts since opening its doors in 2010, Fast Company reports.
"Our signature entrepreneurship program engages [ex-inmates] in a series of Shark Tank-style business plan competitions judged by renowned thought leaders who award up to $150,000 in seed capital to winning ventures," the company writes on its website.
Sure, the whole staff is only only four guys right now, but as a laundry list of mom's-house-to-millionaire stories prove, Bay Area tech startups tend to grow quickly. The firm is continuing its work with formerly incarcerated men and women in the area, even hosting newly released prisoners as "entrepreneurs-in-residence," so the trend of hiring ex-inmates is likely to continue as well.
Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is a senior editor at TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist who frequently writes about sustainability, corporate social responsibility and clean tech. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands, Earth911 and the Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.
Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Mazzoni’s recent work can be found in Conscious Company, AlterNet and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia.