Unseen Assets: The Untapped Talent of Justice-Impacted Individuals

Harris Ferrell
Chief Executive Officer at Orijin 


The dynamic labor market holds a vast, untapped resource in justice-impacted individuals. Despite facing societal barriers and stigmas, these folks have proven to be among the hardest workers and committed employees. In fact, 85% of human resources executives and 81% of business leaders report that justice-impacted individuals perform the same as, or better than, employees without a past conviction.

As CEO of APDS, I’ve seen firsthand the transformative power of education and skill certification for those returning to our society from incarceration. Central to our company’s mission and a founding tenet of this country is the belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to rebuild, contribute, and find success. By employing and supporting second-chance employees, we create a ripple effect that positively benefits individuals, families, and entire communities.

Currently, justice-impacted individuals constitute over 10% of the APDS workforce across all of our teams including product, finance, operations, and customer support (as well as our board of directors). Their unique insights and experiences have significantly enriched our company culture, stimulated innovation, and bolstered our commitment to social impact. By embracing individuals who have overcome the adversity of incarceration in their life’s journey, we are cultivating an organization that is more resilient and better poised to create a profound impact in the education sector.

We stand at a societal crossroads: Will we continue to perpetuate the cycles of incarceration, or will we adopt a pragmatic, inclusive approach to reintegration?

As employers, we play a crucial role in shaping an equitable workforce – actively recruiting and hiring qualified people, even if they have an arrest or conviction record. This transcends a narrow approach of having “diversity quotas” – it’s about creating equal opportunities to succeed and acknowledging that there is untapped potential to be realized at our company. 

We have the power to break the cycle of incarceration and influence a future where every individual, regardless of their past, has a chance to contribute, grow, and succeed.

By integrating justice-impacted individuals onto our team at APDS, we’ve seen firsthand how they enhance diversity, spark innovation, and enable us to tap into an undervalued talent pool that strengthens our company. This shift towards inclusivity signals our collective commitment to social change, empowering all individuals to contribute their skills, experience, and unique perspectives to our evolving workforce. 

It’s not just about giving justice-impacted individuals a second chance—it’s about giving our companies and communities the opportunity to thrive through the strengths, insights, and perseverance these individuals bring. 

Join us in advocating for a more inclusive and equitable workforce by supporting 2nd chance hiring. Sign the APDS 2nd Chances at Work campaign pledge today. Let’s build a future where everyone has a chance to shine and shape our companies, communities and world for the better.


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