Ford Foundation

Why the Ford Foundation launched a program for formerly incarcerated people—and how we did it

In late 2015, Darren Walker approached the foundation’s Talent and Human Resources team and asked us to create a professional development program for graduates of the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI). At the foundation, we’ve long supported the innovative work of BPI, which gives incarcerated men and women an opportunity to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentences. And we’ve highlighted our commitment to this program, how it transforms the daily realities of incarcerated people and offers them a sense of possibility that is essential to rebuilding their lives and participating in their communities after their release from prison.The foundation’s work with BPI also aligns with our support for fair-chance hiring policies and other efforts to eliminate barriers to employment for people with conviction records. In short, we don’t believe a prior history of convictions should disqualify people from employment—especially since this is a problem that disproportionately affects people of color, whose lives have been hit hard by decades of overcriminalization. So when Darren approached us with the idea, we were as eager as he was to figure out how we could “walk our talk” on these issues.

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