Slack turns formerly incarcerated people into tomorrow’s tech workers
The Future. Finding work after being released from prison can be very difficult, so Slack is working through its nonprofit, Next Chapter, to help those that have been incarcerated. It provides software-engineer training, a living wage, and holistic support for easing individuals back into society. Next Chapter has already placed 30 people into full-time tech jobs and is currently scaling its program through the industry. As a result, it may not only be curbing recidivism but reshaping how corporate America at large views formerly incarcerated workers.
Cutting some slack
Started at Slack by CEO Stewart Butterfield after being inspired by Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, Next Chapter trains formerly incarcerated people for jobs in tech.
- According to Fast Company, Next Chapter typically finds apprentices through work programs like The Next Mile or Underdog Dev.
- It then puts them through a three-month programming boot camp at Hack Reactor (where Slack pays them a living stipend).
- If they pass Hack Reactor, the apprentice is placed on a team at Slack (or other hiring partners like Dropbox or Square) for a paid, eight-month apprenticeship.
- During the tenure, apprentices are also given support in navigating company culture, renting an apartment, and doing long-term financial planning.
Proving its success, Slack is now expanding Next Chapter through an initiative called Rework Reentry, which is tasked with creating a “tactical playbook” for other tech companies — a move that could scale the apprenticeship program. To date, an additional 14 companies, including Papal and Asana, have joined.
Speaking of Next Chapter, Deepti Rohatgi, founder and executive director of Slack’s philanthropic venture, Slack for Good, said that “it’s about seeing the potential in every human being, no matter their prior circumstances. When you think about re-entry programs, they’re not normally high-level jobs or high-paying jobs.”
And that ability to have a job prospect that actually provides a living wage is key for formerly-incarcerated people to reenter society successfully. According to Ken Oliver, executive director of Checkr.org (the nonprofit arm of background-check firm Checkr), “the primary driver of mass incarceration and recidivism is poverty” — a sobering fact when, after their first year out of prison, only 55% of employment-age men report earnings, and most are just $10,000.
Kenyatta Leal, executive director of Next Chapter, says the program hopes to “help break those cycles, but even more importantly, begin a cycle of potentially creating generational wealth.”