Priya Baskaran


This Article will address a pervasive and growing problem for returning citizens—high rates of economic insecurity—and, as a novel solution, propose the creation of Economic Justice Incubators (“EJIs”) as a new, municipally-led social enterprise strategy. Mass incarceration is a national problem and requires comprehensive criminal justice reform. In contrast, the reentry process is locally focused due to a complex web of collateral consequences arising from state and local laws. An estimated 641,000 people return home from prison each year, many to economically distressed communities. Once released, the terms of their parole and the collateral consequences associated with their conviction restrict their mobility. Successful reentry initiatives require strong community and local government investment dedicated to supporting returning citizens post-release. Without targeted, short-term policy solutions, these individuals will remain trapped within the cycle of poverty and criminalization that pervades these disadvantaged geographic spaces. This Article will focus on one major obstacle that repeatedly impedes successful reentry: economic insecurity and disenfranchisement from viable employment opportunities.

The existing nonprofit model is intrinsically flawed as a means of economic enfranchisement because it fails to adapt to the lack of available jobs within disadvantaged geographic spaces and the larger transition to a knowledge-based economy. As a new strategy, this Article will propose municipally-led EJIs to support returning citizen entrepreneurs. Many local governments currently incubate and accelerate businesses as part of a growing local economic development strategy, often using public funds and resources to support these private enterprises. This Article will advocate for the equitable expansion of these municipal incubator programs to provide additional economic opportunities for returning citizens.

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