And we’re here to tackle big problems in the name of equity.
By Aaron Clark, Founder & CEO of Justice Reskill
At the funeral of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, told the congregation a brutal truth: Brooks wasn’t just running from the police when he was fatally shot by police in June 2020. “He was running from a system that makes slaves out of people,” Warnock, now a U.S. Senator, said. “This is much bigger than the police. This is about a whole system that cries out for renewal and reform.”
Justice Reskill is our response to that broad cry for renewal and reform. Together with our partners and our supporters, we believe that we can empower people, like Brooks, to transcend the limitations imposed by our country’s unjust justice system, to escape the cycle of recidivism, and to secure stable, fulfilling livelihoods for themselves and their families.
With far too many examples, the summer of 2020 called attention yet again to the systemic injustice in our country. Currently 70 million Americans — roughly one-third of the adult working population — have a criminal record, and Black folks make up a grossly disproportionate part of the prison population nationwide. Fewer than half of previously incarcerated individuals have full-time employment. And since 1 in 2 adults in the U.S. have experienced incarceration in their family, that lack of long-term, career-level employment reverberates deep into many communities, especially communities of color.
These injustices don’t just affect justice-involved individuals or their families either. As Americans, we are depriving ourselves of a very capable workforce, made up of those who have already served their time according to the law and who are disenfranchised for no other reason than outdated processes, harmful stigmas, and racist attitudes. The truth is, like anyone else, justice-involved individuals have the potential to thrive and contribute in unimaginable ways. By not allowing or empowering our justice-involved brothers and sisters to contribute, the U.S. economy loses an estimated $78 billion to $87 billion in GDP each year.
Given my own experience in the tech industry, I founded Justice Reskill with a focus on equipping our students with a specific set of forward-looking technical skills. From front-end and back-end web development to data science, we believe these are skills that will continue to be in demand throughout the digital economy for years to come. After all, our goal is not just to help our students get any job. Instead, we are creating stable, long-term pathways to high-wage careers, which will allow our students to rebuild their whole lives and save for their families’ goals. Through the Fair Chance Hiring Platform and our other advocacy work, we’re also clearing current obstacles for those who participate in our programs to get hired in the positions for which they will soon be qualified.
We hope that our efforts at Justice Reskill, together with our incredibly supportive network of partners and supporters, will open doors that were once impenetrable. If we’re successful, our graduates will eventually be in the position to open new doors for others who struggled in the justice system — creating a virtuous cycle of progress for justice-involved individuals and for the organizations who will benefit from their future contributions.
We invite you to show your support for the justice-involved community and for our mission by following our social media channels [Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn] and signing up for our Newsletter here. Along the way, we’ll share our progress, tell the stories of our community, and let you know ways that you can help us work towards a more equitable society.