Advocating for Equity and Inclusion in the Workforce

Ambassador:  Romicha Cooper, Director of Talent, APDS

As a Human Resource professional, implementing the best practices in hiring and addressing the skills gap for fair chance employment is of paramount importance. 

I believe fair chance employment provides opportunities for justice-impacted men and women with a criminal record, giving them a second chance to rebuild their lives and contribute positively to society. 

I understand the impact of collateral consequences on individuals who are justice-involved. Felony convictions can result in barriers to gaining meaningful employment, education, housing and other basic human needs that are essential to re-enter the workforce successfully.  Second Chance hiring helps mitigate those barriers, and is essential as a best practice to promote an equitable workforce.

Here are a few crucial reasons why 2nd Chances at Work matters from a human resources point of view: 

  1. By considering candidates with a felony record, HR departments can access a wider talent pool that may have been previously overlooked. This inclusion promotes diversity, bringing in unique perspectives, experiences, and skills that can enhance the overall organizational culture and performance. 
  1. Many individuals with a felony record face significant barriers to employment, including limited access to education and job opportunities. By offering fair chance employment, HR teams can help bridge the skills gap by providing training, mentorship, and support to these individuals. This not only benefits the individuals themselves but also addresses the larger societal issue of reintegration and reducing recidivism. 
  1. Implementing second chance employment practices demonstrates a commitment to fostering an empathetic and inclusive work environment. It sends a message that the organization values second chances, personal growth, and rehabilitation. This can have a positive impact on employee morale, engagement, and retention, as employees feel that they work for an organization that genuinely cares about its people. 
  1. Many organizations have a social responsibility to give back to their communities and address social issues. By embracing second chance employment, companies can actively contribute to reducing the cycle of poverty and crime, promoting community development, and creating a more equitable society. This aligns with the values of corporate social responsibility and can enhance the organization’s reputation and brand image. 
  1. In some jurisdictions, there are legal obligations and regulations that prohibit discrimination against individuals with a felony record, except in specific circumstances. HR professionals need to stay informed about relevant laws and ensure compliance in their hiring practices. By incorporating second chance employment initiatives, HR departments can proactively navigate these legal requirements and mitigate the risk of discrimination claims. 


At APDS 15% of our workforce is justice-impacted. It is a part of our core values to understand that no one is defined by a single story; a growth mindset empowers success; and that we never charge the justice-impacted or their families.

Overall, I believe prioritizing 2nd Chances at Work employment and addressing the skills gap through best practices in all employment sectors is crucial from an HR perspective. It enables organizations to tap into a diverse talent pool, bridge the skills gap, foster an inclusive community and culture, fulfill social responsibility, and comply with legal requirements. By embracing 2nd chance employment, HR departments can contribute to positive social change while simultaneously benefiting their organizations through increased diversity, employee engagement, and overall performance. 

And, from a human perspective, hiring 2nd Chance employees allows the justice-impacted an opportunity to garner equity in the workplace, to rebuild their lives and provide for themself and their families.

Say ‘Yes’ to 2nd Chances! 

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Romicha Cooper is the Director of Talent for APDS. She is seasoned Human Resources Professional in both public and private sectors for nearly 20 years. Her approach to talent management is with trust and transparency. In 2020, Cooper authored a children’s book titled “Aunty’s House” inspired by her childhood and family.

Kimonti Carter is the former president and current Resource & Equity Director of the Black Prisoners’ Caucus Community Group. At 34, Kimonti founded T.E.A.C.H., a higher-education program that he designed with the Black Prisoners’ Caucus to bring college courses to Washington State prisoners. Kimonti is also featured in the award-winning documentary Since I Been Down and serves as an APDS educational consultant. He is a community advocate, educator, motivational speaker, and curriculum designer of Liberation Education, a course on the ADPS educational platform.

Ralph is the Founder and Managing Director of ETS Strategic Capital; he also serves as Chief Investment Officer (CIO) for the unit. With experience in engineering, applied-science, finance, and business management, he has led ten venture investments and serves on six Boards of Directors. Previously, he worked in investment banking at Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, and in R&D at Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies, and AT&T. Ralph holds twelve patents in various technology fields and is a Kauffman Fellow, Robert Toigo Foundation Fellow, and PriceBabson SEE Fellow. He serves on non-profit boards, including Princeton University Engineering and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) of the NNSA, and works with the NSF on SBIR and STTR programs.

LaToya Newson is a trailblazer in the field of adult education, with a wealth of experience in corrections education programming. She spearheaded the creation of the Reentry, Employment, Adult Education Program (Project REAP) – a groundbreaking initiative aimed at curbing recidivism by providing education and training to justice-impacted individuals. This innovative program provides incarcerated individuals with the tools and resources they need to complete their high school equivalency exam, preparing them for success upon their release.

Born and raised in D.C, Chris grew up under extremely difficult circumstances. At the age of 17, he was charged with a crime, convicted, and sentenced to natural life in prison. While incarcerated, he earned his high school diploma, graduated from all of the vocational shops, earned an Associate Degree and started his Master Plan, a roadmap for his future. After serving 16 years in prison, Chris wrote and published The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose to inspire other justice-impacted individuals to achieve their fullest potential.

As CEO of APDS, Harris oversees all aspects of the company’s operations. His expertise, leadership, and vision have made him a respected figure in the education industry, and he continues to drive forward his mission of using EdTech to make a difference in the lives of justice-impacted individuals. Harris has a deep understanding of the unique challenges of EdTech in corrections, and he is passionate about leveraging technology to create innovative solutions that can help transform the lives of students and educators alike.

As Chief Revenue Officer of APDS, Mott ensures the successful delivery of evidence based programing to the states and jurisdictions serviced by APDS. In this role, Mott is instrumental in driving long-term change in recidivism and positive learner outcomes. She is a passionate advocate for free individualized programming for justice-impacted individuals.

A passionate advocate for social justice and education, Arti Finn co-founded APDS in 2013 with the ambitious goal of creating pathways to living-wage employment for individuals affected by the justice system. Under her visionary leadership, APDS has revolutionized the edtech landscape within the correctional environment, providing high-quality programming at no cost to justice-impacted individuals or their families in hundreds of facilities across 18 states.


As Chief Strategy Officer, Arti skillfully directs the company’s policy, government relations, marketing, and public relations efforts while also forging strategic partnerships to further advance the organization’s mission. Her keen focus is on helping correctional systems reimagine the potential of technology to deliver scalable, tailored programming that empowers justice-involved individuals to successfully reintegrate into society.

Nate Ober is the Chief Technology and Product Officer at APDS, where he leads teams responsible for developing innovative content and technology products for justice-impacted learners and driving technology efficiency in the company’s business systems. With 18 years of experience in education technology, Nate has a track record of guiding organizations through growth and transformation. He has expertise in product management, agile transformation, IT modernization, software development, and scalable educational technology solutions. Before joining APDS, Nate held various roles in the education industry, including CTO and Head of Product at Straighterline and CTO at Questar Assessment.

Dr. Amy Lopez is a federal appointee and nationally recognized expert who designs and delivers innovative correctional educational programming for incarcerated individuals and training for staff entrusted with their care. She is a pioneer in launching first-of-their-kind programs on positive behavior interventions, leveraging technology to connect incarcerated individuals with educational and legal resources, and implementing innovative trauma-informed staff training to de-escalate crisis situations. 

Carol D’Amico is a seasoned higher education reformer, dedicated to connecting education with the world of work. As a consultant, she contributes to talent growth across education, workforce, and economic development sectors. D’Amico’s background includes serving as Executive Vice President of Strada Education Network, Assistant Secretary for Adult and Vocational Education in the U.S. Department of Education, and co-director of the Center for Workforce Development at the Hudson Institute. While at the Hudson Institute, she co-authored “Workforce 2020,” examining the future U.S. workforce demographics and the challenges of preparing for a global economy.


In addition to her policy work, D’Amico has held leadership roles in higher education institutions, serving as executive vice president and chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, and president and CEO of Conexus Indiana, a manufacturing and logistics initiative.

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