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When R&B singer John Legend isn’t making music, he’s lending his voice and support to issues that matter. Legend—who has been very vocal about the flawed criminal justice system—has created an accelerator program for inmates who are looking to become social entrepreneurs, Fast Company reported.

The program—dubbed Unlocked Futures—is specifically designed for those who have been behind bars and others whose lives have been directly affected by the criminal justice system, the news outlet writes.

The 16-month accelerator program provides participants with the fundamental tools needed to step into the realm of entrepreneurship. Unlocked Futures is a collaborative effort between the non-profit organization New Profit, Bank of America, and Legend’s campaign FREEAMERICA. A lot of the business models that were presented during the program are designed to help individuals overcome barriers within the justice system and transition into their regular lives after being released from prison.

One of the participants, Topeka K. Sam, founded a Bronx-based non-profit that will provide formerly incarcerated women with a one-year transitional home so that they can have the support that they need to re-enter society, reports the source. Unlocked Futures provides the budding entrepreneurs with mentorship and $50,000 in funding to get their businesses off the ground.

Legend told Fast Company that it was imperative to ensure that the participants were creating businesses that were tied to making a social impact. “We wanted people who had an agenda and a mission that was directed toward that community of formerly incarcerated people and people who are vulnerable who we want to prevent from getting caught up in the system again, or in the first place,” said Legend. “So all of the entrepreneurs we’re supporting meet that criteria. Even if they have for-profit businesses, it’s targeted at people who are in prison and their families, to make sure they’re communicating with each other.”

According to New Profit, nearly 60 percent of individuals who were released from prison struggle to find jobs and often remain unemployed for up to a year after they are released. Legend and all of the other companies that have joined forces to create this accelerator program believe that entrepreneurship is the key to unlocking successful futures.

SOURCE: Fast Company


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