Swap one of the current brands you buy from for one of the companies featured below.
Ironically nicknamed Land of the Free, the United States is the world’s #1 jailer. The U.S. represents only five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s inmates are here. By the close of 2010, America had 1,267,000 people behind bars in state prisons, 744,500 in local jails, and 216,900 in federal facilities—more than 2.2 million people in total. 1 in 5 inmates are low level drug offenders, and Black people are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated for drugs than whites despite using drugs at roughly the same rates.
Those who are released from prison are often still under state surveillance, and as a consequence, they are subject to discrimination that contributes to America’s 76 percent recidivism rate. Most people who were incarcerated are required to have employment as a condition of their parole. Employers, however, are allowed to screen people with felonies during the application process, making it difficult for formerly incarcerated folks to get a job and feed themselves and their families.
Below is a list of companies that work to empower the formerly incarcerated with training, jobs, and skills that they can take into the job market. Supporting companies that are doing the work of getting people who have been incarcerated a chance to work is necessary for our communities. Swap one of the current brands you buy from for one of the companies featured below. You’ll get a great product that is securing the economic health of vulnerable members of our society.
Located in Yonkers, New York, Greyston Bakery has been providing opportunities to folks regardless of their background and work history for over 35 years. Greyston creates thriving communities through the practice and promotion of Open Hiring, meaning those with a felony on their record or other challenges that would normally be an obstacle in gaining employment are welcomed and encouraged to apply. The folks at Greyston are interested in developing people’s natural talents and abilities. Their interest in socially responsible business and growing awareness of the massive economic dysfunction driven by poverty, recidivism and a lack of job opportunities for people with barriers was a perfect match for Ben and Jerry’s, another socially responsible brand. You can find Greyston brownies in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. They also have products in Whole Foods.
Sweet Beginnings, LLC produces the beelove family of products, an all natural line of raw honey and honey-infused body care products. Sweet Beginnings offers full-time transitional jobs for formerly incarcerated individuals and others with significant barriers to employment in a green industry. Beelove’s products include honey and a skincare line. Created in Chicago, beelove’s honey has a sweet, subtle flavor that makes all recipes that call for honey that much better. Beelove’s skincare line is infused with their honey, creating moisturizing lotions, scrubs, body washes, lip balm, and more. Purchasing any of beelove’s products helps people facing significant barriers to employment, particularly those with histories of criminal conviction. Each purchase provides viable opportunities for individuals to establish a work history, learn productive work habits, and gain marketable skills.
Located in Brooklyn, New York, Refoundry is a not-for-profit that trains formerly incarcerated people to repurpose discarded materials into home furnishings and incubates participants into their own businesses. Refoundry is on a mission to reduce our nation’s staggering prison population and recidivism rate by establishing a cost-efficient and scalable model that can empower those most affected by our broken criminal justice system to transform their lives and their communities. Refoundry’s core pillars of collaboration, self-reliance, and entrepreneurship have allowed them to empower disenfranchised folks and make some amazing furniture in the process. You can purchase tables, shelves, mirrors, and many more furnishing from Refoundry’s talented entrepreneurs.
Clean360’s program alums describe it as a “home away from home.” Located in Oakland, California, Clean360 is a social enterprise that creates small batch, handcrafted soaps from the finest ingredients in its workshop and retail location. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sales of Clean360 soap are used to grow and sustain the Emancipators Initiative, a workforce development program out of the Roots Community Health Center. Clean360’s soaps are all natural and affordable and their purchase goes to helping others. Supporting this business is a win-win-win.
Founded in 1992 shortly after the LA riots, Homeboy Industries started as a training ground for aspiring bakers. Today, 25 years later, Homeboy Industries provides hope, training, and support to formerly gang-involved and recently incarcerated folks. Homeboy allows its employees to redirect their lives and become contributing members to society. To date, Homeboy has engaged more than 120,000 gang members. The cookies, pastries, and cakes made at Homeboy are made with 100% European butter and specialty and seasonal holiday items are available each season. Luckily, you don’t have to be in LA to enjoy Homeboy’s baked goods. They guarantee shipping nationwide, and all proceeds benefit former gang members whose lives are being transformed through comprehensive job training and wrap-around services.
Do you know of any companies that work with the formerly incarcerated we didn’t list? Please tell us about their work and link to their website in the comments!