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John Legend helps launch startups for and by former inmates

Unlocked Futures, a 16-month accelerator started by singer John Legend and the philanthropic fund New Profit, supports entrepreneurs who are former inmates or are helping others transition back into society.

“Entrepreneurship is important because we may not get jobs. We’re hiring ourselves. It’s out of necessity,” says entrepreneur Teresa Hodge, part of Unlocked Futures’ inaugural class.

Hodge runs Mission:Launch, a nonprofit that offers workforce re-entry training. Another member founded Bronx-based Hope House, which provides housing for women in their first year after incarceration.

The eight entrepreneurs in Unlocked Futures’ first class, six of whom have spent time in prison, will each get $50,000 in funding.

Unlocked Futures is backed by $500,000 from Bank of America, which has supported other criminal justice programs, including investing in the state of New York’s recidivism-reduction social impact bond.

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