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December 30, 2021 54 mins

Baratunde asks how can we citizen with tech when we disconnect millions from technology and from society as a whole by incarcerating them? He closes the season in conversation with two people who’ve served time for felony convictions and are now working in tech to expand opportunities for all: Shaka Senghor, author and head of DEI for TripActions, and Teresa Hodge, president of Mission: Launch and co-founder of R3 Score which changes how employers use background checks.


Guest: Shaka Senghor

Bio: Bestselling author and speaker; Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at TripActions 

Online: Shaka’s website, Twitter @shakasenghor, and Instagram @shakasenghor


Guest: Teresa Hodge

Bio: President of Mission: Launch, co-founder of R3 Score

Online: Mission: Launch website; R3 Score website; Teresa’s Twitter @teresayhodge 


Go to howtocitizen.com for transcripts, our email newsletter, and your citizen practice.


ACTIONS


- PERSONALLY REFLECT 

Are we that bad?

The United States has five percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Ask yourself the question Teresa wants us all to ask: are we that bad? 

 

- BECOME INFORMED

Who is leading the spaces you spend time in?

Take stock of the companies whose products and services you use the most and the non-profits you may be supporting. Now go take a look at their boards and senior leadership. Do they reflect the experiences of the communities they serve? 

While you’re in a learning mode, check out Shaka’s TED Talk, Why Your Words Deeds Don’t Define You

 

- PUBLICLY PARTICIPATE

Citizen with those who have felony convictions

The Last Mile is an incredibly effective organization that prepares incarcerated individuals for successful reentry through business and technology training. Support their work through donation, volunteering, or better yet, hire their graduates!

Redeemed Sole, an organization Shaka founded, highlights a number of organizations helping people avoid or return from incarceration. Find an initiative there, and donate, amplify, or join in some way. 

Find out if your workplace, school, or even landlord uses traditional criminal background checks to determine someone’s suitability. If they do, encourage them to join Teresa’s Bank on 100 Million initiative, and take the pledge yourself. 

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Mark as Played
Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:02):
Welcome to How to Citizen with Baritune Day, a podcast
that reimagined citizen as a verb, not a legal status.
This season is all about tech and how it can
bring us together instead of tearing us apart. We're bringing
you the people using technology for so much more than
revenue and user growth. They're using it to help us citizen.

(00:27):
During this season, we've talked to some of the true
tech o g s who are out here trying to
promote the narrative that tech can help US citizen. But
for this final episode, we really wanted to talk to
someone who was coming at tech from a completely different perspective, honestly,
almost a different world. We were close with R. G.
Tongue trust me like I like you thought she was

(00:49):
from a different planet, but I've confirmed that the Digital
Minister of Taiwan does indeed live here on Earth with us.
In a world that already leaves so many behind. We
wanted to focus on those who are intentionally kept out
of the technological loop, because if I learned anything from

(01:09):
my conversation with Crystal, it's that rewiring systems to benefit
the many, not the few, well that can still leave
out the few. And we can't citizen until everyone can citizen.
And that brings me to our first guest of this
final episode. I met him back in when I got

(01:34):
invited to Detroit by none other than the M I T.
Media left. They were collaborating with folks in the city
on some kind of design workshop to help with the
city's renewal, and I didn't have a lot of history
with Detroit. In fact, I had no history with Detroit.

(01:55):
So I show up to this gathering maybe it's twenty pool,
and it's different types of people. There's techie people who
have clearly been doing tech a long time, there's designing people,
there's entrepreneurs, and there's detroit people who clearly lived in
Detroit a long time. And this eclectic mix of folks

(02:16):
was broken out into groups to help solve some problems.
Even in that mix of people, even with all that diversity,
I just laid out one dude stood out. He had dreadlocks,
he had swag, he had a presence that was really undeniable,
and that dude was shock a single what's up, bro,

(02:39):
what's going on? Man? Super excited to see where we
got going today? Me too. I love that the way
we hang out is on the podcast This is Good.
This is Good. I want to start with you introducing
yourself to people out there who might not know much
about you. Well, first of all, I just think so
much for having me on on. My name is Shaka

(03:01):
san Gore. I am a writer. I am a dad,
which is like the favorite title I hold. I'm also
a tech executive at a company called Trip Accidents based
out a Paula. Also, so my official title is head
of Diversity, Quality and Inclusiveness. My real title is Director

(03:21):
of Dopeness, because that's the only thing that I want
to do is do dope stuff with dope people. I
love that you. I love the way you introduce yourself
and this wide variety of titles, and a while ago
in your life, the idea that you would be a
tech execut might not have made that list. Just how

(03:42):
does that feel right now? It's incredible at this point.
You know, when you think back on my journey, you know,
a kid growing up in each Troy, growing up in
the tough household, and to get caught up in that
culture and experience all the horrors that come with it,
you know, childhood friend being murder, being robbed, the gunpoint

(04:02):
being beat nearly to death, three years later being shot,
and then sixteen months after that shooting and tragically causing
the man's death and subsequently being sentenced to seventeen and
forty years in prison. Yeah, tech probably wasn't the thing
that would come to mind for most people. I served
a total of nineteen years, seven of those years in

(04:24):
solitary confinement. And what a lot of people don't know
about my life as they see it now is that
a lot of the things really kind of took shape
and solitary confinement when I begin to write out a
new way of looking at life and kind of giving
myself permission to dream big. During my Detroit visit, Shaka's

(04:51):
role was as an ambassador to Detroit, but not only that,
he was a reminder that any solution has to involve
the people closest to the problem, that a city like
Detroit wasn't just some blank slate, but have people who
have been living there for decades and generations that needed
to be included in the process. A year later, Shaka

(05:12):
and I would meet again, this time as formal directors
fellows at the m I T Media Lab, a program
that connected academia to the real world, challenging the notion
of what it means to be an expert by bringing
together people from all kinds of backgrounds of talking chess,
grand masters and movie makers and regenerative gardeners, all to

(05:33):
address various pressing issues. Shaka has since written six books,
including a memoir about his time in prison. He's actually
working on another one right now. In he created the
Live in Peace mentorship program and has become a leading
voice in criminal justice reform. Today, he continues to work

(05:54):
on the ground in Detroit. Shaka's story may seem unique.
I mean, he's literally been interviewed by Oprah, but his
experience is something many Americans have faced. And that's what
we're going to talk about today. What is it like
to be a return citizen and our ever changing digital landscape,

(06:18):
what happens when we leave an entire population in the dark,
and how can we better support them so that we
better support all of us. Today, we've got two incredible
conversations lined up now back to Shotgun. Because of the

(06:39):
title of this show is how to Citizen, and we
we take it as a verb. You're a returned citizen,
you know you're a member of a community that we
often banish from our concept of citizenship. So can you
define what a returning or returned citizen is for some
of our listeners. You know, when our first came home

(07:00):
and I heard that word, I was like, Wow, this
feels great, and I was so full of optimism and hopefulness.
And what I thought, honestly, what happened is that I
would come home and basically confess my sins to my
community and say, you know, I really want to get
a job, that my dream as a writer. And what
I didn't know is that there were so many barriers
to re entry. You know, I didn't know that people

(07:23):
would hold you hostage to something that had happened nearly
two decades ago and say that you're unworthy of employment.
I didn't know that people would rule you out as
being eligible to rent a house or rent an apartment.
And it was not only disappointing, it was devastating because

(07:44):
I really wanted to become part of a contributing community.
So I have that taken away almost immediately, and to
run into all these barriers like out of the gate,
it really made me think differently about citizenship, and even
to this day, I mean, you know, I've been on
the eleven years, and there's things that come up that

(08:06):
would shock most people when they think about where I'm
at this point in my life and the things that
I still have to grapple with. But after a while,
you get tired, you know, and it wears you down,
and you're constantly having to explain to your child, we
gotta go around this corner, up this block, down this alley,
jump over this fence to get the basic things that

(08:27):
comes with being a citizen. And despite that, I still
believe that, you know, my my role in American society
is one of contributing in a meaningful way to make
the world that we live in better. And it's one
of the reasons I mentor and work with kids and

(08:50):
schools um throughout the country. I can't imagine how much
catch up you had to play just with technology in
terms of how long you were incarcerated. So tell me
how long were you incarcerated and what was your technology
relationship during that part of your life. Yeah, So, you know,

(09:13):
I laughed when I think about technology in prison, because
it basically did not exist when I went to prison.
You know, our cell phones was like those big cinder
blocks so I went in in n and so I
came home June twenty two, two thousand ten, one day
after my birthday. So it's two decades of just innovation

(09:35):
and things had took place while I was inside. You know,
when I came home, everything was new, I mean everything,
you know, just an email, Like I had never heard
of an email, Like, what is this thing that they're
talking about? What you need for everything? You need to
put in a job application, you know, a resume. I
was so ignorant to technology that I used to get

(09:58):
into a consistent big ring situation with my then girlfriend
at the time because I used to think a word
document was the Internet. So every time I had to
save something, I would ask her was it okay? Because
I didn't want to give the computer of virus. It's
kind of funny now when you think about it, but
it was a real pain point because I don't think

(10:19):
that she quite understood the learning curve that it was
literally the equipment of Fred Flintstone walking into an episode
of The Jetsons, because that's what prison was. It was
his cave like barbaric environment, and all of a sudden,
I'm in the future where people can talk through screens.
Mm hmm. I'm remembering when we first met back in

(10:43):
in Detroit. The M I. T. Media Lab had this
mission to like help Detroit out. But before my visit,
an earlier group had come to the city and you
played a key role in vamp on the program, right,
So tell me what happened on that trip before you
and I met, because I'm pretty sure that my visit
was like a lot different than the lab's original plan

(11:05):
and those small part thanks to you. What happened is
I was invited to this event for my work that
I was doing in Detroit around literature and mentoring young people,
and they had a group of people in the room
that didn't quite look like the Detroitors that I knew.
These were people who were transplanted Detroitors. They were just
moving in the real estate costs were low, and they

(11:26):
were kind of reimagining what the city could look like.
And so what they were telling the director then at
the time was that, you know, Detroit was a blank
slate and that they can pretty much do anything that
they wanted to. And I took offense to that, you know,
because I thought about my parents, who have been in
Detroite ever since they were born. I thought about my aunts,
my uncle's, my neighbors, my friends, people who had never

(11:49):
left the city, and what the city meant to them,
and so I basically stood up. I just said to them,
I said, you know, this isn't the real Detroit, and
if you won't experience the reality trade, I'm willing to
take you on a tour. And I took them all
throughout the city and every sexy you can imagine. I
took them to the areas that had some of the

(12:10):
toughest struggles, but also took them to some areas where
it was prominent people who had lived there all their
lives and contribute greatly to the city. You know. I
took them to urban farms, and I took them to
Grandma's backyard gardens because I wanted them to see that
urban farming wasn't a new thing. And from that experience
was born this idea that they were bringing together people

(12:33):
from all walks of life and come and work in
collaboration with the people in Detroit to figure out if
there was something we can build unique to the city's experience.
And so that's how you and I ended up meeting,
Like you less such an impression, bro, and you were
an ambassador to the city. For me, I leaned on
that a lot, and I remember valuing the grounded perspective

(12:56):
you just shared, and I was so excited a year
later when we were reunited in Boston as director as
fellows at the M I T Media Lab. So talk
to me a little bit about your experience. I mean,
I know what it was like for me, but why
did you participate? What was it like for you. I've
never shared this with you, but I remember a day

(13:16):
of us sitting at the table with some of the
fellows and we were we were in in in my
T Media lab, and I was just trembling inside because
I felt so out of place. Um, you know, in
my mind you all were just like intellectual titans and
creatives and all these things. And I was like, wow,
I'm I'm just you know, short of two years removed

(13:38):
from prison and I didn't quite think I fit in.
And I remember the first day going into the lab.
It was one of those moments where I was like, wow,
like the future is like right here in this one space.
I remember seeing these bionic legs and these robots and
I was just like, this is this is just such,

(13:58):
it's so bizarre. But I was so curious to lean
in and learn even more. And then I started working
with people there and I was like, you know, innovation
takes place everywhere. I've been innovating my whole life. You know,
if you grow up in the hood and you have
to make the best of the twols at your disposal,
to improve the quality of life is something that you
that never leaves you. And so when I got to

(14:20):
the lab, I was like, man, we was doing this
with no resources in the joint. I think I'm onto
something right here. And so that's when I begin to
get more comfortable with it. But initially I was really
intimidated by being there. And I'll tell you a quick
story if we have time. When I was at Mr
T Media Lab. One of the ways that I figured
out that I fit in was when I did a
prison hackathon and I came up with these five design challenges.

(14:43):
You know how to make a tattoo gun out of
a tape player motor, good child string in a in
an ink, and you know how to make a stinger,
which is how we heated up our award extensive cord
of nail clippers, And how to make a lighter out
of batteries. What I thought what happened was that these
brilliant students would solve them and they couldn't off none
of these in three hours. And it made me think
about the men and women inside who saw these things

(15:04):
in thirty seconds to survive and what would happen if
they had unfettered access to the resources that create technology.
Mm hmm. How do you think the experience of incarceration
would change if there were more access to technology inside
of prisons. I think there would be a lot of
a lot of changes. I think that people on an

(15:28):
inside would really be able to imagine a life for
themselves beyond being in the prison cell. I met some
of the most innovative people in prison, and there's an
organization that I love that I just have, you know,
great deal of respect for a car the last mile
and they're actually showing what would happen. There's men and

(15:48):
women inside of prisons right now as part of this
program that are actually building. Companies actually went to one
of their demo days of Saint Quentin. Every and of
those from an app that helps find missing children to
one that lets parents track their kids grades g P

(16:10):
and how about a voice coded trigger lock that can
be traced by police if you've got to stolen. There's
not a problem like that on the market. The program
is and walking around and seeing what these men were creating,
and how they were just so enthusiastic and hopeful and
full of light. And I was just like, man, I
wish I had that experience on the way out of prison.

(16:32):
I could have accelerated some things. But you know, to
see it happening at this level now, to see people
more open to it, it's really inspiring to me. So
that's what I think what happened is more creativity, more innovation,
and more companies built built by system impacted people. Shaka
sing Gore, Director of Dopeness, a well earned title, my friend,

(16:56):
my brother, thank you. In a lot of ways, Shaka's
story is exceptional. A man, against all odds, has been
able to repent for his crimes, rise to the top
of his field, and give back to his community in
a big way. It's the type of story our society loves, inspirational,

(17:21):
feel good, comforting. If taken out of context, it's almost
too comforting because Shaka shouldn't be the exception, and he
will be the first one to tell you that there
are more than two million people incarcerated in the United
States today. In fact, the US is consistently ranked as
the country with the highest incarceration rate per capita in

(17:43):
the whole world. Given those numbers, how many Shakas are
imprisoned today? People who have been cast aside despite their potential,
those whose perspectives can be a real asset to our society,
but we'll never get the chance. So please don't hold

(18:06):
Shaka as an example that the system is working because
someone like him became a tech executive. Instead, let Shaka
be a reminder to us, all of the potential innovators
who are in prison today, that for every one of
them who makes it, there are hundreds more who don't
get the chance. For mean, what's really heartbreaking is I

(18:30):
never heard one person say I can't wait to leave
prison to go back to prison, not one, And yet
about the people who leave prison go back And it's
because we don't allow them to connect back to society
in a meaningful way and have that human capital restored.

(18:54):
So what does it take to change the system so
that stories like Chaka's become the norm? After the break?
My conversation with Teresa Hodge, a return citizen who has
dedicated her life to answering that question. Teresa, what's up? Welcome,

(19:19):
thank you, It's so wonderful to be here with you today.
Teresa Hodge is the co founder and CEO of Mission Launch,
an organization in the DC area that's dedicated to supporting
individuals with the rest records and families impacted by mass
incarceration now. Mission Launch does this through an array of programs,

(19:40):
including financial literacy workshops, a business accelerator for returned citizens,
and even hackathons with the mission to improve post prison
re entry. In addition, Mission Launch and Teresa have created
Our three Score. This is an alternative to the background
check that doesn't simply ask do you have a criminal

(20:01):
record and ended that because we all know people are
much more dynamic than a simple yes no answer. Instead,
our three score is a more nuanced algorithm that asks
a series of questions that are better able to determine
how someone might perform as an employee, a residence, a borrower,

(20:21):
or something else. Think of it as a credit score
that actually makes sense. Wouldn't that be nice? Their current
initiative bank on a hundred million brings together both these efforts.
This campaign helps companies in schools rework their hiring, lending,
and admissions practices so they no longer exclude folks simply

(20:43):
for having criminal records, because that would exclude about a
hundred million people. Basically, look Teresa's using tech and activism
and her lived experience to improve the lives of millions
of Americans. Can you tell me how the idea of

(21:03):
Mission Launch came about? What was the moment? So the
moment for Mission Launch came when I was sitting in prison.
I went to prison in two thousand and seven and
began serving an eighty seven month federal prison sentence. That
seven years, three months felt like a lifetime sentence quite
frankly when it was given to me. The one thing
I knew was in order to be relevant, I had

(21:26):
to do something that concerned the prison, because after spending
those many years in prison, the only thing that I
would really know the most about was going to be prison.
But while I sat in prison and I listened to
the stories of the women who I was incarcerated with,
and I watched even more so a lot of women

(21:47):
go to prison and come back, I just really began
studying and trying to understand why were people coming back
Because what I knew was prison life was no way
of living, and people were coming back. There was a
strong disconnect. Yeah, you've talked about how technology is essential

(22:08):
and re entry for someone who's going to post incarceration.
What was the tech landscape like as you remember it
before you were in carcerated back in oh seven. So
when I went to prison, just to kind of help
you understand where technology was, Facebook was what young people
were using, my Space was around. And while I was

(22:32):
in prison, a few days afterwards, Steve Jobs announced the
first iPhone. There is a major breakthrough headed to American consumers.
It's the iPhone, an iPod, a cell phone in a
portable internet all in a little lightweight package. Today Apple
is going to reinvent the phone. And while I was

(22:53):
in prison, people start tweeting and I couldn't understand what
do you mean people are tweeting? What do you mean
they're putting in an atmosphere? But who's in the atmosphere?
What's going on? And what you understand is technology is
a context sport. And so for the men and women
who are incarcerated, we have disconnected them. I can't even

(23:18):
It's hard for me to imagine I stud in line
for that first iPhone and the idea that I would
be confined during that time and not even fully understand
that that was happening. That's jarring, you know, like that
someone changed the official language of your society and you
come back in you don't quite speaking. Am I capturing
some of what that must have felt like for you.

(23:41):
There were a few things that I missed the most.
Technology was one. Popcorn was another. I'll show you. I
need to show you how shallow I am, and that
you know, and my family and I really missed. But
it was the inability to use technology. And I am
a person who wasn't early adopted to technology. You know.

(24:01):
I really emphasized to a lot of young people before
incarceration the importance of technology and the digital divide. I
was teaching about it. So to find myself on the
other side of the divide, it was just heart wrenching.
Mm hm. Take me to the day you're released. What
do you remember about that day? I was released from

(24:25):
prison August three, two thousand and eleven, and so I
remember that day like it was yesterday, And what what
did my daughter bring me an iPhone? And ya, I
had been talking about technology. Did she bring you popcorn?
That's the real question, you know, she did not bring
me popcorn. She did not bring me popcorn. All right,

(24:47):
So your daughter shows up, she brings you an iPhone? Yeah? Yeah,
Actually it was my daughter, my mother, one of my sisters,
a niece, and one of my niece's girlfriends. And so
it was two carfuls of women who took me to
prison and a car fool that brought me back. I
am just one of the fortunate few that take family
with them and come back to family. So one just

(25:10):
have to acknowledge that privilege. But it was an iPhone.
But I'll be honest with you, I was so overwhelmed
because I did not have that level of connection to
technology and just the phone ringing and trying to text
and people calling and pictures popping up, and I felt
some anxiety. And I didn't expect that I was in

(25:35):
prison for five years, ten months away from technology, so
all of those generations of technology, you know, that had
taken place. Um. But I when I first came home,
my daughter and I had made a commitment that we
were going to work together. And while I was in prison,
you know, we had a conversation one day while she
was visiting, and I had just read an article that

(25:58):
said seven out of ten children who have an incarcerated
parents are likely to go to prison. Seven out of ten,
seven out of ten children. So it speaks to how
we are locking families into this cycle. And as a mom,
I was heartbroken. My daughter graduated from college before I

(26:22):
went to prison, and so we would sit and visit
and have conversations, and we were able to maintain our relationship.
But there were children that day playing outside who were
visiting their aunts and grandmas and mothers and sisters. And
I said to her, count ten children, and you tell
me which three deserves not to go to prison. At

(26:45):
that moment, our partnership was formed. I already knew what
I was going to do, but she decided that she
was going to bring her skill sets to the table.
And from there we just started entering business plan competitions,
with me providing information and insights from the inside and
her applying to competitions on the outside. Mm hmm, I'm

(27:09):
stuck on the seven out of ten, you know, it's
it's uh, it's by design. You know, when we look
at racial wealth gap and all of these things, you
have to look at prison. It's unfortunate, but so many
people who go to prison, they come from under resource

(27:30):
communities and it's just the thing that happens. We'll be
right back. Tell me what human capital means to you.

(27:51):
I've seen you use that language and a lot of
other conversations and describing some of your work. Well, I
feel like for me that as humans, we all have
been given God given talent, we have strengths. It's the
total sum of who you are, what you're able to do,
how you see life in the world, and it's your

(28:12):
ability to spend that in how you work, you live
and play. And so for me, I feel like I'm
on a mission to help restore that human capital that's
lost when people are in prison and help people reconnect
back to society in a meaningful way. For me, what's
really heartbreaking is I never heard one person say I

(28:34):
can't wait to leave prison to go back to prison,
not one, And yet about the people who leave prison
go back, and it's because we don't allow them to
connect back to society in a meaningful way and have
that human capital restored. Yeah, when you use the word restore,

(28:57):
that's a powerful term to use because it's there. It's
like ready for investment, right as ready for the return
on that investment, and you sort of putting something back
where it belongs, as opposed to we got to go
find some human capital and go figure this thing out.
It's like it's been figured. We just got to undo
the harm that took it away from from all of

(29:19):
us collectively. What are some of the things high on
the list that you consider missing areas blind spots, whether
on your side or on society side. In terms of
how we interact with people on their return, well, for me,
I think that language matters. We don't have a good

(29:39):
way of talking about people who go to prison and
those same people who come back from prison, and so
we use words that are so offensive, like expelling x con.
We labeled them as criminals who wants to hire our criminal,
who wants a criminal to move into their apartment? Right,
No one even the language of returning citizen. When does

(30:02):
a person get to return? When is the punishment over?
And when is that just another person that is occupying
this world with us? And so for me, I think
that we have to begin to humanize or rehumanize humans.
We've turned over our prison system to our government. It

(30:25):
is an out of sight, out of mind, and we
have entrusted for far too long that they were doing
what was best on our behalf, and that has not
been the case. Today. One in three Americans having arrest
are conviction record. This is something we have to fix.

(30:46):
By the year twenty thirty one million Americans while having
arrest or conviction record. That's one into working age adults.
This is not the problem of the seventy plus million people.
This is all of our problem. And so I love
your how the citizen, because this is something we all

(31:07):
have to figure out. We're all stakeholders in this. Yeah,
we are. I remember the first time I visited Rikers Island.
I had been living in New York for a decade
and I've only seen it from the planes landing at LaGuardia,
which until I visited Rikers, I thought LaGuardia was the
worst place in New York City. And then I saw

(31:28):
what we did to people who couldn't afford bail. I
think what offended me most was I've been paying for
this the whole time, and I didn't know I was
investing in something and had no idea until I spent
just one day was enough because we've got to stop this.
The way you put it, when do people return? What's

(31:48):
the language you choose to use, and how do you
encourage us to refer to this population we've been talking about.
It's clearly not X felling an X con and maybe
returning citizens isn't the j out. So what do you suggest? Yeah,
we I feel like it is time for us to evolved.
I don't have the language, but I use human first
language always, and so what you always hear me say

(32:12):
is people with arrest or conviction records, because we are
people first, you know, And when in doubt, it's time
for us to learn each other's names. You know, that's
a way to hold up. I'm all for humanization, but
that's a step too far. Everybody's seven million people's name.

(32:32):
I could take five years to say a sentence that's
that's amazing. And thank you for that because I heard
you using it, and I was like, I think this
is a conscious choice, So I will try to learn
by that example. And I know you've been championing ban
the box initiatives. Can you explain what that means. Absolutely,
there are laws on in our government that make it

(32:57):
where employers cannot discriminate against people when they are trying
to get employment. You know, one of the economic pillars
of our society is we want every able body to
be able to work well. When people have an arrest,
are conviction record, employers are able to discriminate. It's a

(33:19):
silent discrimination. I used to run an HR department years ago,
and it wasn't until I came home from prison that
I thought, oh my god, I was trained to discriminate.
I was told look for the best candidate, find reasons
to streamline hundred and fifty stack of resumes, And the

(33:42):
truth is we would come up with our own matrix internally.
So there are internal policies that are often not written,
but quite frankly, it's just culture, and that is we
do not hire folks with records. So banning the box
means that you cannot put on an application the box

(34:03):
that says have you ever been convicted of a crime,
So in one sense we are just delaying the discrimination.
But still there's an opportunity for me to have a
conversation and maybe a human connection. When you use numbers
like one in three Americans currently has an arrest or
conviction record and by one out of two working age

(34:27):
adults will will meet that same condition. Then it really
is a wee problem, absolutely, and the discrimination it's vast.
You know, we get to you've been out for several
years and you come up with another way a score, uh,
different kind of credit score, different algorithm. What is our

(34:49):
three score technologies? Our three score is a contextualized background
check for the one in three Americans living with an
arrest of conviction record. It provides dieting namic data. I
like to say it's a criminal background check that needs
a credit score. So when I was helping individuals who
were entrepreneurs build their business, is one of the things

(35:12):
I recognize is we could help them grow a business,
but we couldn't get them access to growth capital because
of their background check. And a local community bank approached me.
They were willing to make loans to individuals with arrest
are conviction records, but they didn't know how to assess them.

(35:33):
And so the proposition was, hey, Teresa, if you vet
people for me and if you okay them, will take
your word. Ah. So they were outsourcing to you yeah,
And I thought, well, this is interesting, but it's not
scalable for Teresa to do this on a regular basis.
And yeah, and what if they missed the payment? Am

(35:57):
I now the collections department? But I understood the opportunity,
and I thought, well, could I take what Theresa no
and put it to technology and can I scale that?
And could I then create something where other people could
be seen differently. First, you have to understand that a

(36:20):
criminal background check is a very static document. It only
tells you if a person has a criminal record. That's
all that tells you yes or now. It's a buying
everything yes or no by andary, yes or now. And
it maybe give you citations. Well, if you don't know
how to read all these citations, you maybe don't understand

(36:41):
the difference between something as minimal as jaywalking and something
that you might be a little bit more you know,
scared of. You don't understand the time away from crime
and some of the other factors that might need to
go in. And so when that banker bought his problem
to me, our three score was born. And so we

(37:01):
wanted to create a data rich algorithm that allowed us
to look at people are dynamic. You know, we are
not static, So yes, we don't hide the fact that
a person has a record, but we add alternative data
that we think is also important for you to know,

(37:21):
Like what based upon my age, how long I've been
away from the criminal activity, how long I've been home
from prison, how active I am in my community. Those
are all factors that indicate that I am less likely
to commit a crime than someone who has not committed

(37:42):
a crime today. And that is evidence based research that
is already out there. So we brought in all the
evidence based research that was out there, and then in
addition to the evidence based research, it's just the nuance
of people, because when you think of seventy million people
with an arrest or conviction record, it's not a monolithic

(38:04):
it's not one person. But yet decision makers when they
see that a person has a criminal history, their mind
goes to the worst possible offenses and they make decisions
that they can't take the risk. And really all they're
looking for is like, give me a little bit more
information about this person. And we are a third party

(38:27):
validator of additional information. We sell contexts, We sell context
You're doing so much with this, Theresa you're First of all,
I think you're you're using data to humanize people, and
so much of our modern experience with data is the opposite.

(38:48):
It strips us of our humanity. It puts us in
these little market segments so that we can be auctioned
off to the highest bidder. And I have I had
my own strong objections to that. I like seeing an
example of data being used to restore someone's humanity. I
also think that in a nation like ours, where we've
criminalized so much, it's meaningless to have a criminal record.

(39:11):
If if we're approaching one and two working age people,
then what's even the point of the background check. Absolutely,
I want to acknowledge you because I think what you're
doing is brilliant and amazing, and it's restoring a lot
of my hope and faith in the possibilities of what
we can do with all this tech stuff. I want
to ask you about one more initiative, which is bank
on one million. What is that? Why is it needed? Well,

(39:35):
when you think of the criminal justice system, it's complicated,
complex and convoluted. And I thought that just helping entrepreneurs
was enough, but then I was like, oh, I gotta
create something for people to interpret them and understand. Well,
now that we've created a tool, now it's like, oh
my gosh. Corporations need implementation and understanding and they need programming.

(39:58):
So Bank on a hundred mill is a platform. And
I'm I am so done after this. I'm like, I've
done enough. You know, you just enjoy and us sis
to retire and enjoy some life after president after all
of this. But so bank on a hundred million, this
is an opportunity for us to decide collectively to broader us.

(40:22):
How are we going to treat our brothers and sisters
who have an arrest or conviction record. And it's a
way that you can come on a platform and learn.
There will be educational information, case studies. We're going to
provide all of that. If you're a corporation and you
want to do better, be better, there's a pledge for
you to take and we offer consulting and we offer

(40:45):
the tool, and we can help you understand some policies
and procedures. So for me, I brought my body of
work together on the Bank on a hundred million platform,
and I'm inviting the stakeholders in America to come and
let's solve this problem together and let's put people back
to work so that they can be productive and help

(41:06):
grow our country. I think it's possible that the next
big idea, the next UH solution, the next you know cure,
could be sitting inside of an American prison and that
they can come home and be extremely productive. The question
only is will we let them? Mm hmm. Our major

(41:27):
theme for this season has been can we find stories
that show us tech that actually helps us citizen? How
do you think we should be using tech to help
the lives of of return to returning citizens rather than
making it harder. So, for me, our goal is to

(41:49):
become the gold standard quite frankly, for how we vet
nessess individuals who have arrest are conviction records. We have
to stop turning this system over to our government. We
have to get involved, We have to become active citizens
around this. You know, if you're not sure how to
do it again, that's the reason why we're creating this
platform where you can come and learn. One place you

(42:10):
can come learn how you can get engaged and you know,
just help put some of the folks who have served
their time back to work, restore lives and in that
cycle of families going to prison. Yeah, that that is
the wrong kind of family business incarceration. We've been asking

(42:32):
people and you've already started answering what they would encourage
our our listeners to do. What would you want someone
to reflect on or challenge internally on this topic. I
throw data and statistics around, but if there's one piece
of data, America has five per cent of the world's
population and twenty five per cent the world's prisoners. Are

(42:56):
we that bad? Are the people of the country bad?
Or our our policies and how we've done this bad?
And if we do nothing else, just this is a
time for us to see this issue differently. It costs

(43:19):
too much, it destroys lives, and it is just time
for us to see one another. I can assure you
every time I present people like shopped and gasp at
the statistics. But afterwards someone comes up and when I
hear their voice drop, I know what's getting ready to happen.

(43:39):
They say, my father went to pression, my mother went
to prison. It's time for this to stop being America's
dirty little secret. Period. Teresa, Hi, you're a Dovis. Thank

(44:02):
you so much forgiving for asking yourself that question. And
answering it every day with what you're doing, and for
using tech to humanize us and help us see each
other as people. First, I'm so glad that we've had
this opportunity to talk to you. Thank you so much.
I am glad for the invitation and let us have

(44:22):
brunch together. Yeah, when I'm next in town. I mean
I live in California. I was so thrilled to talk
with Teresa because she's doing so much of what we

(44:42):
talked about on this show. She's using her power to
benefit us collectively and specifically with tech. She's creating new
algorithms that actually center justice. She's proof that tech doesn't
have to rip us apart or dehumanizes, but that we
can choose to use it to do the opposite. And

(45:03):
she's wrapping my hometown of d C. So you know,
there's a lot of love there. We started this season
asking where tech went wrong, but we intentionally spent most

(45:24):
of our time with the people who are fixing it,
who are building tech to help us citizens. And what
they're building is so damn cool. But that's not even
the most inspiring part. It's the people behind the innovation
that inspires me. For too long we've been living in
a tech dictatorship, one where a select few get to

(45:47):
call all the shots. But our guests are rejecting that
narrative and a fighting to bring humanity back into tech.
Even if you don't identify as a tech nerd, you've
got to admit that's add As I thought I was
making a season about tech, it turns out I was
making a season about rebels. I've always been broken. They

(46:11):
will never give me money. So now the gloves have
totally come up. If you can't bid them, make them obsolete.
And then at the same time, we have to radically
reinvent the incentive structure of social media. So nothing big,
nothing big that I'm a seat at the table isn't
the same thing as a voice at the table. You know,
don't push the conversation, take time, take patients, move at

(46:34):
the speed of trust and care. Before speaking with all
these incredible people, even I Baritune day, the techno Optimists,
Thurston will admit I was starting to lose faith that
we could reclaim tech for the collective. There's so much

(46:56):
evidence and news and examples that pessimistic point of view.
But speaking with my big sister at the start of
this journey. She reminded me of the magic my mother
instilled in us to be critical, but most of all,
to never stop imagining what's next. My mother never had
the opportunity to thrive creatively at work. If she had,

(47:20):
I know she would have created something spectacular. Seeing all
these people using tech for beautiful things, it makes me
feel like a little bit of her is still here.
And if I accomplished one thing this season, it would
be the past down my mother's imagination when it came
to tech. But Linda described her as becoming, you know,

(47:41):
dealing with whatever the past layers were, but but always
having the courage to continue to reach toward whatever it
is that she could see and that she wasn't done,
she was not ending, she was still living and um
she was still becoming. Just because tech has been in
one thing for us doesn't mean it can't become something else,

(48:04):
something better. Just because we think one way doesn't mean
we can't become someone better. So the question is what
are you going to become? And now, for our crowd favorite,

(48:34):
the part of the show where we put you in
and give you ways to citizen, it's time for some action,
all right. For personal reflection. The United States has five
percent of the world's population and of the world's prison population.
Now ask yourself the question Teresa wants us all to ask,

(48:56):
Are we that bad? No? X? Let's get informed about
who's leaving the spaces we spend time in. I want
you to take stock of the companies whose products and
services you use the most, the nonprofits you may be supported.
Let's take a look at their boards and senior leadership.

(49:16):
Do those people reflect the experiences of the communities they serve?
And while you're in a learning mood, check out Shaka's
ted talk why your worst deeds don't define you. Finally,
for ways to publicly participate, let's citizen with those who
have felony convictions the Last Mile. This is an incredibly

(49:37):
effective organization that prepares incarcerated individuals for successful re entrigued
and I want you to support their work with your money,
with your time in terms of volunteering, or better yet,
hire their graduates. Get your employers to hire their graduates.
These actions and links are in the show notes on
your device in front of your face and also on

(50:00):
our website at how do citizen dot com. Because this
is the last episode, of season three. Let me also
say thank you to the team at dust Light Productions.
Y'all don't even know. This is a really, really, really
really dope group of people. And I want to thank

(50:22):
Ali Kilts, who writes for me almost as good as me. Uh,
my assistant Layla being a who helps you know the
calendar not be wild. I want to thank Matthew Lai,
who came in midstream as our apprentice and stepped up
and produced the heck out of things. I want to
thank Sam Paulson, who was our apprentice on season two,
full law producer in season three and delivered some stellar

(50:47):
guests and great episodes to the mix. Stephanie, our editor
who produced on season two edited on season three. Stephanie,
every time I feel like I'm a little lacking in
the video, I do jumping jacks. That's an inside joke,
but you understand what I'm saying. To Mika, Oh my goodness.
To Mika, our our lead producer, crushing it. Thank you

(51:09):
for especially your calm in so many storms. Misha and Arwin,
thank you, Thank you. Thank you who helped run us
Light and have provided valuable notes, guidance, and insight along
the way. There's another group that's been involved with this season. Uh.
They're a group called Civics Unplugged, and we actually featured
them in the very first season of How To Citizen.

(51:32):
I don't remember the episode number, but go back and
check them out. They've been really stepping up to help
us out with the digital If you've been enjoying the
new How To Citizen Instagram experience, that's due to the
gen's ears at Civics unplug and we are going to
collaborate with them even more so. Thank you, especially to
to Nazi, to Chabou, to Julia uh and to Josh

(51:57):
over at Civics umplug uh and and last but not
at least, I said this at the end of season too.
I'll say it again at the end of this season
to my wife, my life partner, executive producer, co creator
of this show with me, Elizabeth, you are the producer
closest to my heart and you have really helped elevate
what we're doing here. So to the listeners out there,

(52:20):
you've heard my voice. There is a whole team of
people behind it, giving me things to say, helping me
find people, pushing me to be better, challenging me and
pushing me to citizen and especially thank you. Thank you
for listening, thank you for engaging, Thank you for citizening.

(52:40):
This is a team sport. Stay tuned to us at
how do citizen dot com find us on Instagram? At
how do citizen tag us in your citizen practice? Hashtag
it and connect with others doing the same, or don't
we We don't need you to find us on Zuckerberg property,

(53:00):
the metaverse or whatever. We need you to engage with
each other in the world. This thing that we're doing
as a collective as a people requires belief, requires faith,
and requires reminders that we can still do good stuff,
that we're not just subjects in somebody else's kingdom. When

(53:20):
it comes to technology, where we're spending so much of
our time, all of our emotions, our money, our family connections,
our politics, it's all there. It's very important that we
exercise our power, that we determine how we're going to
use this to meet our human needs individually and collectively,

(53:41):
that we use tech to citizen So I will see
you somewhere in the world, and I hope you will
see each other as well. Keeps citizen in y'all, keeps
citis in In In You, How Do? Citizen with Baritone is
a production of I Heart Radio podcast and dust Light Productions.

(54:03):
Our executive producers are Me Barryton Day Thurston, Elizabeth Stewart,
and Misha Yusuf. Our senior producer is Tamika Adams, Our
producer is Ali Kilts, and our assistant producer is Sam Paulson.
Stephanie Cohne is our editor, Valentino Rivera is our senior engineer,
and Matthew Laie as our apprentice. Additional production help from
rwin Nicks, original music by Andrew Eapen, with additional original

(54:27):
music for season three from Andrew Clauson. This episode was
produced and sound designed by Ali Kilts. Special thanks to
Joel Smith from I Heart Radio and Rachel Garcia at
dust Light Production.
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