Envisioning a New Reentry & Workforce Development Model
Co-founders Cisco Pinedo and Tommy Safian first met in 1995 through their work in the furniture industry in Los Angeles.
Though they knew our criminal justice system was troubled, both Safian and Pinedo were stunned to learn of the low job retention and high recidivism rates for people returning from prison.
Having hired, trained and promoted justice-impacted people in their own furniture businesses, the founders saw the current reentry model as ripe for reinvention. So they designed Refoundry’s program around craft, commerce and entrepreneurship, believing this model was one of the most expedient ways to help returning citizens achieve financial independence and become leaders and job creators in their home communities.
Cisco and Tommy saw how building a model that tapped into their own experience could build real opportunity, unleash potential, and combat negative perceptions of formerly incarcerated people. With the entrepreneurial spirit that had fueled their own successes, they self-funded their long-term, paid programs in Los Angeles and New York to test, develop and refine their design.
People released from prisons each year
are unemployed one year after release
are rearrested within one year of release
The Refoundry Model:
3 Possible Off-Ramps
With limited resources, a staff of part-time volunteers, and participants who’d been incarcerated anywhere from a few months to 30 years, the initial programs in LA & NY achieved better-than-expected results:
• 10 businesses launched that employ 125 people from their communities
• Zero recidivism
• Environmental benefits: so far program has rescued 150 tons of materials from landfills
• Tax savings: each Refoundry graduate has generated a net tax benefit of $100,000 per year (based on Columbia University Business School review)
Refoundry is poised to scale its model in Los Angeles and New York to serve 60-75 people per year per site, with plans to move into other cities and communities, as well as to adapt the model for in-prison programming. The founders envision a Refoundry-style program in every major city and correction institution, with a goal of transforming the landscape of what we now call reentry and workforce development into a model that honors human dignity (in language, policy and programming); promotes social, economic and civic inclusion; and creates economic development and opportunity in traditionally disadvantaged communities.