The U.S. has more than 20% of the world’s incarcerated population despite having 5% of the global population. Eventually, 95% of incarcerated individuals will leave imprisonment to return home, but will find themselves navigating a re-entry process fraught with racism, unemployment, homelessness and poverty—in many ways, a prison sentence in itself.
As formerly incarcerated individuals look for jobs, there remains a need for engineers across industries. Even with adjustments being made in the tech sector in light of the pandemic, tech roles are still expected to make up eight of the 10 top jobs for 2023.
Slack for Good is on a mission to drive systemic change and harness the overlap between both of these issues by creating employment pathways for historically underrepresented individuals in the technology industry, including formerly incarcerated individuals.
Shining a light on employment obstacles after prison
Today at South by Southwest (SXSW) we’re debuting three short stories featuring graduates from Next Chapter, a technology apprenticeship program incubated at Slack that many graduates from The Last Mile join after completing their sentences.
Next Chapter has provided nearly 50 formerly incarcerated individuals training to develop technical skills and gain apprenticeships with companies like Slack, Zoom, Dropbox and Square. And dozens of other businesses have used the playbook we developed in partnership with the Aspen Institute to implement fundamental and systemic changes to their HR policies and practices to protect diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs that make employment possible for returning citizens.
We still have work to do to get more companies to restructure outdated employment practices and grant freedom of opportunity to all people. To help build on Next Chapter’s efforts, we’re releasing a documentary later this year highlighting the stories of returning citizens as they navigate the path to full-time employment and life after prison.
The Home/Free documentary, narrated by John Legend and produced in partnership with FREEAMERICA and the Equal Justice Initiative, aims to raise awareness about the issues facing formerly incarcerated individuals and inspire companies to act on building more inclusive and equitable workplaces. By sharing these powerful stories, we can help drive meaningful change and create more opportunities for all people.
Meet our graduates
Sumit Sagar Lal. Sumit works with us at Slack as a software engineer. While at San Quentin prison, Sumit met members of Slack’s leadership team, who made the promise of job opportunities in tech after incarceration. This hope inspired Sumit to learn critical tech skills. “Coding freed me from the barbed wires of prison,” he said. Watch his story:
Amalia Bryant. Amalia created her first website in high school, but her journey to become a software engineer at Checkr hasn’t been easy. She struggled to find employment upon re-entry, but discovered that Next Chapter could help turn her passion into a career. See her story:
Keefe Dashiell. Keefe is a software engineer at Cash App, thanks to the coding bootcamp he did through Next Chapter. He’s also building a coding program for L.A. students to gain technology skills that will set them up for success. Hear from Keefe:
Having systemic impact at companies across the U.S.
Next Chapter is an initiative co-created by Slack, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, FREEAMERICA, and The Last Mile with the goal of creating pathways for formerly incarcerated individuals to build engineering careers in the tech industry. Slack’s parent company, Salesforce, recently awarded Next Chapter a $2.5 million grant.
Companies looking to have a systemic impact on their DEI programs and rework policies to enable employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals can download our playbook, or contact Next Chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org or Slack for Good at email@example.com.