Serving Time

Creating opportunities to change lives, crime and punishment, and 5 links worth your time

We all know the old saying about assuming, but how often do we take a step back and assess our own assumptions and think about how they may negatively impact the world around us?

Several years ago, I attended an event and heard a speaker named Michelle Cirocco. At the time, Michelle was the chief social responsibility officer of Televerde, a business-to-business sales and marketing company. She also had an MBA, had previously been the chief marketing officer, and had organized a TEDx event. 

During her talk, she described Televerde’s business model and purpose, “Creating opportunities to change lives.” 

The company was founded in 1995 on the idea that, as Michelle says, “providing women in prison with jobs, training, and educational opportunities while they are incarcerated, we could build a profitable business while providing the women with the opportunity to develop the marketable skills necessary to successfully transition back into the community.”

Another thing you should know about Michelle is that she started working for Televerde when she was incarcerated. She relayed this information at the end of the presentation I heard, and I was shocked. I couldn’t believe this amazingly accomplished woman was herself a convicted criminal.

Changing lives

Part of my job is to not make assumptions about people and to be open-minded. I listened to a woman talk about helping women in prison get skills and change their lives, and I never even thought about the possibility that being this accomplished could be true of someone who served time in jail.

Today, Michelle is still the chief social responsibility officer at Televerde and the executive director of the Televerde Foundation, a non-profit that pursues the same purpose with other businesses and institutions. Michelle was recently named one of the most admired leaders in business by The Phoenix Business Journal and a “world changing woman” by Conscious Company Magazine.

That has a lot to do with the fact that, since 1995, more than 3,500 incarcerated women have worked for Televerde, been paid competitive wages while working and in prison, and have, upon release, been able to continue working for Televerde, their customers, or other tech companies. Less than 6% of women who have worked for Televerde have returned to prison after their release. Nationally, recidivism rates are close to 70%. One year after they’ve been released, 94% of Televerde’s employees are employed whereas the U.S. average is 54% unemployment one year after release.  

The worst decision on the worst day of your life

One in three people in our country have a criminal record. I don’t want the rest of my life to be defined by the worst decision I made on the worst day of my life. That’s true for all those men and women who have served their sentences and have been released, and I now know that my own assumptions are part of this problem.

This week, I hope you’ll listen to Michelle’s story on the podcast and check out our five links below. We’ve included information about incarceration and recidivism rates in the United States as well as several links that will give you more information about Michelle’s work. 

5 links worth your time

  1. A comprehensive snapshot of our correctional system and mass incarceration.
  2. US recidivism rates stay sky high.
  3. Conditions faced by women behind bars are horrible. 
  4. Offering incarcerated women a path to employment and hope. 
  5. Not all prison labor is the same.

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