Entrepreneurship does not define where you have been, but where you are going. Formerly incarcerated Teresa Hodge, Marcus Bullock, and David Figueroa have all launched successful businesses despite all having a troubled past that led them to prison, reported the ABA Journal.
“It was as if prison provided a moment of clarity—a place to plan and figure out life and to determine how to start over—and yet somehow there was this huge disconnect from that vision and desire to actually being successful,” Teresa Hodge told the ABA Journal on how her vision started in prison.
Teresa Hodge launched R3 Score, which is an algorithm based score and report that uses your education level, along with arrest record, facts from your life and volunteer work to create a score. The score is much like a credit score with 300 being the lowest and 850 the ceiling. These scores could be used for bank financing, commercial contracting, and occupational licensing or other opportunities.
“I kept seeing that over and over in prison: the spark in someone’s eye saying. ‘I’m going to make it,’” said Teresa Hodge. “And then the return of someone whose light had been dimmed by reality.”
After his release from prison, Bullock filled out over 141 job applications for various positions.
“The question on the application was ‘have you been convicted of a felony within the last seven years?’ said Bullock. “I want to create my own destiny instead of relying on someone else. I’m naturally an entrepreneur, I sold candy in school.”
Bullock created Flikshop, an app that allows family and friends to take a photo and add a message that is print- ed on a postcard and sent to a correctional facility for a cost of 99 cents. He received a grant to help him launch the business by Unlocked Features, which is affiliated with John Legend, a recording artist and criminal justice advocate.
According to the article, Bullock goes into prisons frequently to teach inmates basic entrepreneurship skills to launch their own business.
“I’m never going to tell them it’s going to be easy, but this is the first step,” he said. “Now, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. But for those who want it, let’s give them an opportunity to provide for their families.”
“They can leverage up and learn about business and marketing,” Bullock said. “If we do this right, we’re changing the world, we’re changing the narrative.”
David Figueroa took his dreams and has built a crew of three, a foreman and two men, recently released from prison. His company is called Second Chance Renovations. His goal is to hire ex-cons and give them the opportunity he never had.
“Every time that I checked the box that asked whether you were a convicted felon, I never got a call back.”
He feels that ending the cycle of mass incarceration starts with each potential employer.
“People think they’re thugs, scum. But they still have kids,” said Figueroa. “They still have bills. I think the system is rigged to keep a certain amount of people in prison.”
According to the ABA Journal, Figueroa has accomplished his goals since his release from prison 14 years ago. He had his gang tattoos lasered off, found a lovely woman he married, has a career, a job he loves.
“I used to be really heartless. I had no emotions, said Figueroa. “Once I had my children, it completely changed me.”
The ABA Criminal Justice Section has been working for over a decade to remove the barriers that most ex-cons find when released from prison.
“There can be lifelong consequences for not only a felony conviction, but also for a misdemeanor conviction,” said Lucian Dervan, chair of ABA Criminal Justice Section and associate professor of law at Belmont University College of Law.
Yet many former inmates don’t attempt to have their prison records sealed or expunged even when they are eligible because they don’t know how to do it or lack the legal help they will need.
A study by the Harvard Law Review found that only 6.5 percent of legally eligible ex-convicts that could ex- punge their record in Michigan had actually done so within five years.
“Affording these individuals a way to expunge or seal their nonviolent convictions recognizes both the accomplishments of the individual in building a life free from further contact with the criminal justice system and the need to reduce the collateral consequences of a conviction,” stated Resolution 109B, which was passed this January by the ABA House of Delegates.