In this episode, we bring you a conversation with Indiana entrepreneur Gregg Keesling. We invited Gregg to share the story of his social enterprise, RecycleForce, which employs and supports formerly incarcerated individuals as they re-enter society, and why he believes that work is a pathway to hope for our struggling communities.

Learn more about the criminal justice system in the United States, the realities of re-entry, and how science-driven, subsidized initiatives can offer creative solutions to challenges faced by marginalized populations in urban and rural communities.

Show Notes:

About RecycleForce

Keys to Work, Indianapolis

Department of Labor Information

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Work is Therapy” by Gregg Keesling

Sheila Kennedy: Jail de-privatization is big step forward, small step back – Indianapolis Business Journal

Angela Duckworth on “grit” – TED TalkBook

Overview of the First Step Act

Ransom Ministries in Mobile, AL

Par Recycle Works in Philadelphia, PA

TechDump in Minneapolis, MN

Isidore Recycling

Partnership with Brightmark Energy

Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone

Nicholas Kristof’s Tightrope

William Julius Wilson’s When Work Disappears

MDRC: Ensuring Equity in Future Subsidized Employment Programs

A Special Note from Gregg Keesling:

“Schedule a tour of RecycleForce if you’re in Indianapolis! It’s fun to come visit and see the process. You won’t interrupt our workday, and we’ll show you around the RecycleForce plant. Call me to schedule a visit – 317.532.1367.”

About our guest:

Gregg Keesling is an Indiana “Hoosier” whose entrepreneurial endeavors began during an 18-year adventure in Jamaica. He opened a resort in Negril called Summerset Village, founded the Negril Jamaica Hotel Association, and served as President of a Jamaican Rotary Club. Keesling and his family returned to Indianapolis in 1996 and created the alternative-staffing company, Keys to Work, focused on serving the welfare-to-work population.

In 2004, he launched RecycleForce, an electronic recycler that employs individuals coming out of incarceration in a service-rich environment.  Since inception, RecycleForce has helped 1800 individuals return home and processed over 100 million pounds of materials for re-use in manufacturing. In 2011, RecycleForce was awarded a $5.65M Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration grant from the United States Department of Labor.  The grant is designed to measure the impact of transitional jobs on those coming home from prison.

Keesling is a recipient of the Social Innovation Award from the Social Venture Network (SVN).  For his innovative approach to reentry, Keesling was asked to become a member of the National Transitional Jobs Network executive committee, whose goal is to grow transitional jobs and social enterprise as a way to improve the outcomes for persons leaving prison.