John Legend is Creating Job Opportunities For People With Criminal Backgrounds - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

According to Forbes, John Legend wants to make sure people with criminal backgrounds are given more opportunities for employment.

Started in 2017, Unlocked Futures is a partnership between New Profit and Legend’s FREEAMERICA program, and is designed to unleash the expertise and insight of social entrepreneurs who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system to remove barriers in America. It’s a 14-month accelerator program for social entrepreneurs who have been incarcerated and are looking to be productive.

“We started this as a collaboration, saying, ‘Let’s not just tell folks to hire formerly incarcerated individuals, but to invest in their ideas,’” says Legend. “All of the members have business ideas that will help them feed their families, employ others, and strengthen our communities.”

Participants of the program receive coaching on leadership skills such as board governance, fundraising, communications, and talent strategy. Their skills are assessed to gauge areas for improvement and then they are teamed with mentors from a network of organizations.

Applicants must have fully operational businesses to be permitted into the Unlocked Futures program. “We come in when you’ve established your proof point, you have your model built and you’re ready to figure out sustainability, growth, and measurement and expansion,” says Tulaine Montgomery, a managing partner at New Profit.

According to FREEAMERICA’s website, the program was founded by Legend in 2014 and works to end the era of mass incarceration in the United States by amplifying the voices of those impacted by the criminal justice system. “Leveraging the convening power of founder John Legend, we aim to change the national conversation about our country’s misguided policies that have led to the epidemic of mass incarceration. Working alongside advocates and experts in the field, FREEAMERICA’s campaigns seek to elevate the stories of those most impacted by the criminal justice system, helping to shine a light on the solutions to end mass incarceration. From Unlocked Futures, an accelerator program that provides social entrepreneurs who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system the opportunity to unlock their potential, to #FREETHEVOTE, a campaign that educates formerly incarcerated individuals about their rights to vote, FREEAMERICA amplifies the voices of individuals impacted by the criminal justice system and those who are working to change it.”