The recidivism rate in our country is an appalling 50%. The odds of “making it on the outside” after release from prison are incredibly stacked against formerly incarcerated people (FIP). Why is this so? Are those who have spent time in prison inherently bad people? Or are the hurdles they must climb to rejoin society so daunting?
Think about it. Many FIP leave prison with little or no cash, no place to live, no job or source of income. Employers may be unwilling to hire FIP or be quick to fire them for the most minor of infractions. With such challenges and frustrations, and with the best of intentions, many FIP see few options and eventually, in desperation, resort to crime. And so the cycle repeats itself. And society pays a high price.
Starting a small business or service is a path chosen by many FIP to circumvent employment discrimination. Left to their own talents, drive and determination, many FIP are starting new enterprises and succeeding. A few such individuals will join us for this event to share their stories and the challenges they faced, especially gaining access to capital, which does not come easily with FIP. They will talk about how their success changed the trajectory of their lives. You also will gain insights on what can be done to make capital more readily available to FIP and thus increase their chances for success.
As the backbone of wealth, small services and businesses are community-oriented, create employment opportunities, and promote the prosperity and safety of surrounding neighborhoods. They also have unparalleled potential in building not only individual wealth but also generational wealth in a community where even basic financial security has been denied.
There are many issues to address to give FIP a better chance for making it after their release. This program will focus on the exciting approach many are taking to start their own business or service organization. When they succeed, society benefits.
This program will be moderated by Evie Litwok, Founder & Executive Director of Witness to Mass Incarceration. A former incarcerated person, Evie has first-hand knowledge of the challenges FIPs face while incarcerated and after their release. She will speak of her experience and moderate a panel of FIPs who have started their own businesses.
Participants must register by 9AM on March 20th to receive details on joining the discussion. The Zoom link will be sent out 24 hours before the event.
Please note that no refunds will be issued.
Founder and Executive Director at Witness to Mass Incarceration
Evie Litwok is a witness to mass incarceration. As the Founder and Executive Director of Witness to Mass Incarceration (WITNESS), her experiences with the judicial and correctional systems serve as the inspiration behind WITNESS’ mission, which operates to end mass incarceration, restore safety, dignity and respect in correctional facilities and reduce barriers to successful reentry.
Litwok was incarcerated in two Federal Women’s prisons. An unapologetically open lesbian and an advocate made her a target for irreparable consequences. While in prison, she
wrote an article that brought unwanted attention to the death of a fellow incarcerated woman due to lack of medical care. As a result, she was shackled and put into solitary confinement.
Litwok walked out of prison homeless and penniless, but her advocacy continued. She is a member of several organizations that focus on ending mass incarceration and a member of the Council on Criminal Justice.
Litwok quickly became a respected speaker on the subject of mass incarceration. Her story has touched audiences at universities, colleges, community centers, houses of worship, and at the White House for their panel on the Criminalization of LGBTQ People.
In 2019, Litwok was designated by the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York to be included as one of The Collective, a group of ten Jewish female social entrepreneurs. In 2015, she was chosen to be part of the inaugural cohort of JustLeadershipUSA. Litwok has written numerous articles concerning mass incarceration, including a focus on solitary confinement, being an older person in prison, sexual harassment in prison, and surviving confinement.
Litwok has an MA in Psychology from Temple University.
Conbody Founder and CEO
In 2009, Coss Marte was sent to prison as the ringleader of a multi-million dollar drug operation. He was also grossly overweight and warned by his physician that his current lifestyle, if left unchecked, would likely kill him.
Faced with this grim prognosis, Coss started to get in shape using the tools he had — his prison cell and his own body weight. Within six months he lost 70 pounds and replicated his successful formula of body weight exercises with 20 other inmates. Then he launched CONBODY, a prison style bootcamp that has gained over 70,000+ clients and has hired 50+ formerly incarcerated individuals to teach fitness classes. Since the launch of his company, he’s been featured in over 200 major media outlets such as NBC, CNN, The New York Times, Men’s Health and has been a 3-time TED Talk Speaker. He’s also won major pitch competitions such as Pitch for Good by TOM’s shoes and the YPO shark tank competition, which combined raised $2,000,000.
Recently, Coss co-founded a non-profit organization called Second Chance Studios, which trains and helps employ formerly incarcerated individuals to become experts in audio engineering, video production, and podcasting.
He’s currently working on launching CONBUD, which is looking to hire formerly incarcerated individuals that have been affected by the war on drugs to build a personal and impactful presence in the cannabis market in New York State through dispensaries that he’s looking to open under the NYS conditional licensing program.
Founder and Executive Director, Reentry Rocks
In collaboration with the legendary Sister Mary Nerney, Sharon created one of the first re-entry programs in the country that is specifically designed to meet the unique and complex needs of survivors of intimate partner violence and other forms of gender-based violence.
While serving 20 years to life for a domestic violence case, Ms. Richardson completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education, in accordance with the standards of the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy. Ms. Richardson also obtained her Associate Degree in Social Sciences and her Bachelor Degree in Sociology. She uses her personal history to inform her professional work. Her inspirational story and compelling style have also made her an effective speaker and educator. Ms. Richardson has presented on issues of domestic violence at Columbia Law School, Criminal Justice Action Network, CUNY Law School Workshops on Domestic Violence, and Public Trainings on Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act with the Correctional Association of NY.
She also participated at a public screening of the film _Crime after Crime_, was a panelist at Sakhi conference on Domestic violence, and was a guest on WBAI’s Talkback with Hugh Hamilton. Ms. Richardson is a writer and producer and put on several productions while incarcerated.
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