Just Saying... A Weekly Blog by Justine PETERSEN

This week’s blog is authored by Tamra Thetford, Chief Program Officer at Justine PETERSEN.

A few weeks ago I had a chance to attend Credit Builder’s Alliance Returning Citizen Convening in Chicago.  It was a day to gather with other financial capability organizations that are assisting returning citizens after incarceration.  And it was also a day to better understand the serious financial hurdles facing those entangled in the justice system.

These financial hurdles are well documented in the St. Louis region in the Forward through Ferguson report and range from issuing arrest warrants for non-violent offenders to pre-trial incarceration for people that can’t afford the cash bail they’ve been ordered to pay, to excessive traffic ticketing. All of these issues are compounded by our multitude of municipalities.

One promising St. Louis solution is the Bail Project, which pools monies into a revolving bail fund.  The Bail Project pays bail for people in need “so they can fight their cases without feeling pressured to plead guilty.”  The Bail Project then calls and texts reminders regarding participants court dates. When people show up for their court dates, the Bail Project is repaid, and the money revolves to assist others.

This is a kindred approach to the small business lending Justine PETERSEN does through the Aspire Entrepreneurship Program. We focus on people who were incarcerated as a result of a felony, provide credit building services, entrepreneurship training, and access to small business funds to start or grow a business. When the business owner pays us back, we use that money to help new returning citizens launch their business dream.

The work that The Bail Project, Arch City Defenders, and a multitude of other justice reform groups are focused on is crucial to reducing the number of people entering the criminal justice system in the first place. Justine PETERSEN is proud to be part of the solution to empower those that have been incarcerated to help them build a brighter future for their families with business ownership and financial capability as a keystone.  

We appreciate the response and feedback that our blog has received.
Please  forward your comments, questions or contributions to blog@justinepetersen.org

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