ATLANTA, Ga. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – There are more than two million people in U.S. prisons right now. Four and a half million people are on parole. Once a person is released, 68 percent will be back behind bars within three years. If you’re thinking—not my problem—think again. Taxpayers spend 130 billion dollars on jails, courts, community supervision, and job loss. Now, one woman is using her 25 years of experience in the tech industry to help break the prison cycle.
“I will be a convicted felon for my whole life,” said Colleen, who was a psychotherapist until she was convicted in a state court. After serving four years, she was out and left feeling like an outcast. “Where I found work, it just wasn’t living wage work. I had five part-time jobs. The system is set up for me to fail,” said Colleen.
The system is tough. Miss a parole appointment—go back to jail. Fail to get a job—jail. Lose your housing—jail. “We have to make it easier for people who are released to reintegrate into society. The problem is nobody shares information that makes it hard for them to work together,” said Louise Wasilewski, CEO of Acivilate. That’s why she started the company. Their Pokket app gives newly released prisoners vital connections. “Pokket connects offenders, returning citizens with their parole officer, with their treatment provider, if they’re on probation with the judge, with workforce housing and, and different counseling options,” said Wasilewski. It lays out goals, objectives, and daily tasks. It keeps track of their progress and sends alerts if someone is struggling.
Colleen’s experience helped shape the app. In the past eight years, colleen has rebuilt her life, and works as an investigator and outreach facilitator for the public defender’s office in Atlanta—now helping others turn their lives around. “They’re coming out to a pandemic. They’re coming out to unemployed. They’re going to need help and resources and support if they’re going to make it,” said Colleen. And hopefully, this one tool will make their story a successful one.
Pokket is being used by the state of Utah and North Carolina, as well as in Georgia. It’s not intended to track the movements of a person or be a replacement for an ankle bracelet, but it’s designed to empower the individual and the justice department. It’s paid for by the probation or parole department, not by the individual.
Contributor(s) to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Matt Goldschmidt, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.