Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Invests In $3M Round For Bail Reform Startup

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People who can’t afford bail account for 62 percent of the jail population in the U.S., according to the Vera Institute of Justice.

Many of the incarcerated committed nonviolent crimes — misdemeanors or less. This is a significant statistic in terms of human and economic rights. It costs about $38 million a day to keep them in jail, according to the Pretrial Justice Institute.

Each year, $9 billion is wasted incarcerating people who have not been convicted of crimes, Jay-Z wrote in an op-ed about the bail industry and pre-trial incarceration.

Promise is a de-carceration startup that just raised a $3 million round led by First Round Capital with participation from Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, 8VC and Kapor Capital.

Promise’s team, led by co-founder and CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, is building an app that can help provide ‘liberty and justice for all’ to millions.”

From Tech Crunch. Story by Megan Rose Dickey.

Promise, which is part of Y Combinator’s current batch of startups, offers counties and local governments an alternative to holding low-risk people behind bars simply because they can’t afford bail.

For each participant, Promise provides counties with a comprehensive intake procedure and then sets up each participant with a care plan specific to them. Promise will then monitor and support participants by helping them ensure they know when they’re supposed to appear in court, and remind them of obligations like drug testing or substance abuse treatment needed. The app also provides participants with job training, housing, counseling and referrals.

“People are going to jail because they look at a piece of paper and misread it, or are going to jail because they can’t afford a class because they’re instead paying child support,” Ellis-Lamkins told TechCrunch.

Many of these people are brown or black.

monitor compliance
Image: Techcrunch

With Promise, Ellis-Lamkins and her team are using technology to try to create a system that works better for everyone, she said. Instead of a county paying to incarcerate someone simply because they can’t afford to post bail, they can use Promise to monitor compliance with court orders and better keep tabs on people via the app and, if needed, GPS monitoring devices. Counties, courts, case managers and other stakeholders can also access progress reports of individuals to monitor compliance.Already, Promise is onboarding one county this week and is in talks with another three counties. Instead of a county jail paying $190 per day per person, Ellis-Lamkins said, Promise charges counties just $17 per person per day.

Read more at Tech Crunch.