Agents of Impact | September 8, 2023

Christopher Bentley, The De-Carceration Fund: Lifting ‘justice tech’ entrepreneurs

Roodgally Senatus
ImpactAlpha Editor

Roodgally Senatus

ImpactAlpha, September 8 — In 15 years in impact investing, Christopher Bentley noticed “a lot of for-profit companies focused on the criminal justice system that were bad actors, using extractive business models or perpetuating a bad system by virtue of the way they did business.”

Bentley and co-managing partner Lawrence Williams lead The De-Carceration Fund, which is raising a $25 million fund to back a dozen or more companies with innovative solutions to disrupt the US criminal justice system. “I wanted to find innovators building solutions to drive the changes that we want to see in the system, as opposed to the changes we don’t want to see,” Bentley told ImpactAlpha.

Bentley came up through Philadelphia’s rich network of impact investing organizations, working on Murex Investments’ good-jobs portfolio and SustainVC’s Patient Capital Collaborative. He served as a fund manager at Josh Mailman’s venture firm Serious Change Investments and as a program director for Investors’ Circle (now the American Sustainable Business Network).

Along the way, he spotted a handful of companies focused on criminal-justice reform, including Pigeonly, now a De-Carceration Fund portfolio company. “I started thinking about why isn’t there a sector that’s really focused on this in the impact world?” says Bentley.

Chris Bentley on The De-Carceration Fund.

The De-Carceration Fund has backed four early-stage justice-tech companies, including Uptrust, which connects defendants with family members, public defenders and probation officers, and Untapped Solutions, which provides reentry services to formerly-incarcerated people.

Half of De-Carceration Fund’s investment committee is made up of impact investors; the other half are formerly-incarcerated citizens.