By Arti Finn

Co-founder of APDS and Corrections Reform Advocate

In the vast landscape of social reform, the power of education stands tall. As the co-founder of APDS and an ambassador for the 2nd Chances @ Work campaign, my mission is rooted in the belief that education, bolstered by career readiness, can unlock potential, transform trajectories, and rebuild lives for the estimated 1.77M individuals currently incarcerated in the U.S.

In 2014, I co-founded APDS with a singular mission: to prepare every justice-impacted individual for a sustainable career. We know the power of education; those participating in postsecondary education programs are 48% less likely to be re-incarcerated. By offering custom educational pathways and career training, we equip individuals incarcerated with the tools they need to thrive upon reentry into society.

“Education goes beyond the classroom;  it nurtures personal growth, critical thinking, and the development of essential life skills.”
Arti Finn, Co-Founder APDS

It also has the remarkable ability to empower individuals, instill hope, and open doors to new opportunities. As such,  at APDS, education is synonymous  with career readiness and life skill development for successful reentry.

To ensure that incarcerated individuals regain their sense of purpose and are given the tools and resources needed to rebuild their lives upon release after using our course, APDS commits itself to creating tailored innovative educational solutions. By leveraging digital technology and co-creating curriculum with formerly incarcerated teachers and experts, we ensure that our programs are relevant, engaging, and impactful. And, we ensure our technology leverages data to track and monitor outcomes and must be paired with support.

Unfortunately we also know that the current correctional system has numerous barriers for incarcerated individuals seeking education from limited access to educational resources, overcrowded facilities, and restrictive policies. Futhermore, education alone cannot bring about transformative change within the correctional system.  Hence, a comprehensive approach that addresses broader issues such as mental health support, addiction treatment, and effective reentry programs is required. Collaboration among educators, policymakers, correctional officers, and community stakeholders is crucial in implementing effective corrections reform initiatives. As advocates for change, we are responsible for breaking down these barriers and creating an environment that nurtures personal growth, empowers individuals, and allows them to reach their full potential. Collectively, we can create a system that improves outcomes, promotes rehabilitation, reduces recidivism rates, and fosters safer and more inclusive communities.

As co-founder of APDS and a dedicated advocate for corrections reform, I remain committed to creating programmatic opportunities that empower incarcerated individuals and provide them with the tools needed to build a brighter future. I invite you to join in on our efforts to continue to push for change, support transformative education, and work towards a more just and inclusive society for all.

By Harris Ferrell

Chief Executive Officer at APDS 

The dynamic labor market holds a vast, untapped resource in justice-impacted individuals. Despite facing societal barriers and stigmas, these folks have proven to be among the hardest workers and committed employees. In fact, 85% of human resources executives and 81% of business leaders report that justice-impacted individuals perform the same as, or better than, employees without a past conviction.

As CEO of APDS, I’ve seen firsthand the transformative power of education and skill certification for those returning to our society from incarceration. Central to our company’s mission and a founding tenet of this country is the belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to rebuild, contribute, and find success. By employing and supporting second-chance employees, we create a ripple effect that positively benefits individuals, families, and entire communities.

Currently, justice-impacted individuals constitute over 10% of the APDS workforce across all of our teams including product, finance, operations, and customer support (as well as our board of directors). Their unique insights and experiences have significantly enriched our company culture, stimulated innovation, and bolstered our commitment to social impact. By embracing individuals who have overcome the adversity of incarceration in their life’s journey, we are cultivating an organization that is more resilient and better poised to create a profound impact in the education sector.

We stand at a societal crossroads: Will we continue to perpetuate the cycles of incarceration, or will we adopt a pragmatic, inclusive approach to reintegration?

As employers, we play a crucial role in shaping an equitable workforce – actively recruiting and hiring qualified people, even if they have an arrest or conviction record. This transcends a narrow approach of having “diversity quotas” – it’s about creating equal opportunities to succeed and acknowledging that there is untapped potential to be realized at our company. 

We have the power to break the cycle of incarceration and influence a future where every individual, regardless of their past, has a chance to contribute, grow, and succeed.

By integrating justice-impacted individuals onto our team at APDS, we’ve seen firsthand how they enhance diversity, spark innovation, and enable us to tap into an undervalued talent pool that strengthens our company. This shift towards inclusivity signals our collective commitment to social change, empowering all individuals to contribute their skills, experience, and unique perspectives to our evolving workforce. 

It’s not just about giving justice-impacted individuals a second chance—it’s about giving our companies and communities the opportunity to thrive through the strengths, insights, and perseverance these individuals bring. 

Join us in advocating for a more inclusive and equitable workforce by supporting 2nd chance hiring. Sign the APDS 2nd Chances at Work campaign pledge today. Let’s build a future where everyone has a chance to shine and shape our companies, communities and world for the better.

Community Activist and Founder of Taking Education and Creating History (T.E.A.C.H.)

I am Kimonti Carter, a 2nd Chances at Work Ambassador, Community Activist, and the Founder of Taking Education and Creating History (T.E.A.C.H.), a prisoner self-education program supported by APDS.

At the age of 18, I was sentenced to life without parole and spent 25 years and three months of my life in a federal prison. During this time, education became my lifeline.  It became the catalyst that propelled me to become a leader, mentor, and teacher. The remarkable transformation I experienced, both personally and professionally, reaffirmed education’s critical role in reshaping lives. Today, I want to shed light on the profound importance of education in breaking the cycle of incarceration and bridging the employment gap.

Addressing Educational Barriers 

During my time behind bars, I experienced firsthand the numerous barriers incarcerated individuals face in accessing education. In prisons across the United States, incarcerated individuals are often denied access to educational services if their sentences exceed a certain duration. This denial of education perpetuates the cycle of incarceration and limits opportunities for personal growth. To combat this, I founded T.E.A.C.H., uniting individuals from diverse backgrounds and promoting education as a means of social liberation.

The Transformative Power of Education 

Education was the key that unlocked my freedom. During my life sentence without the possibility of parole, I transformed my life and my circumstances by utilizing education to become a leader, mentor, and teacher. Leading T.E.A.C.H., a prisoner-led higher-education program, was vital to my release and transformation. Education provides individuals the tools to overcome systemic barriers and create lasting change.

Creating Lasting Change through Education 

Recognizing the need for educational reform within the prison system, APDS offers innovative curriculum solutions co-created by formerly incarcerated teachers like myself. By incorporating engaging digital experiences and focusing on personal growth, APDS  bridges the educational gap and empowers justice-impacted learners with the skills necessary for successful reintegration into society.  It is a tool I wish I had had, and those that remain incarcerated need it too.

Closing the Employment Gap

Education should encompass more than just academic knowledge; it should provide practical job skills and career training for incarcerated individuals. Closing the employment gap is crucial for their successful reentry into society and reducing recidivism rates. APDS is leading the way by preparing justice-impacted learners for sustainable careers and economic independence.

The transformative power of education cannot be overstated for individuals seeking a second chance at work after incarceration. By breaking down educational barriers within the prison system and providing comprehensive career skills and employment training, we empower justice-impacted individuals to successfully reintegrate into society and break free from the cycle of incarceration. 

Join me in advocating for 2nd chances, where education becomes the catalyst for liberation, offering everyone the opportunity to thrive in their careers and lives. Together, we can create a future where no one’s past defines their potential.

Take action today and sign the pledge to support 2nd Chances at Work!

Kimonti Carter serves as an educational consultant and curriculum creator at APDS. He is also the subject of the award-winning film, Since I Been Down, which illustrates the societal conditions that lead children to gang violence, the personal transformation that is possible through accountability and healing, and the liberatory power of education. 

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! 

Article by APDS Ambassador
Chris Wilson
Serial Social Entrepreneur, Storyteller, Artist, Social Justice Advocate, Author

Reintegrating into society after incarceration poses a formidable challenge for many individuals. Among the numerous obstacles they encounter, securing stable employment stands out as one of the most crucial, in an environment and around people that support healthy habits. It helps them rebuild their lives and plays a significant role in reducing recidivism rates and fostering a safer and more inclusive community.

I was released from prison after serving 16 years on a Life sentence and I found myself facing new challenges.  There was an unrealistic expectation of me to find a job immediately,  find a place to stay and check in with my probation officer twice a week. This is a very common scenario for returning citizens. Fortunately, I was prepared to meet these challenges. 

Early in my incarceration, I decided that I wanted to turn my life around. I knew deep down inside I was a good person and wanted to prove it. I wanted to prove it  myself and to my family.  I began to imagine a new future for myself. I started to view my prison sentence as an opportunity to mold myself into a new person. I imagined myself being released one day and becoming a successful entrepreneur that helped people in the community. So I decided to create a master plan utilizing every educational and therapeutic opportunity available to me inside of the prison I was in. My mentor told me “The knowledge you put in your head could never be taken away from you.” I committed to my plan for over a decade. 

Ten years into my incarceration I had accomplished a lot. I earned a high school diploma, and a college degree in sociology, read hundreds of books, took vocational trades, became a mentor and taught myself to read, write and speak in several foreign languages. Because of my accomplishments, good behavior and remorse for my crime, I was given a second chance to live my life and was released from prison.   

Photography by Nick Samuel for Vero News

Today, I have been out in society for 11 years. I have continued to pursue post-secondary educational opportunities, I’ve founded several companies that have helped hundreds of people gain employment in Baltimore City. I’ve become a successful visual artist and advocate for prison education and career readiness strategies that help people impacted by our criminal justice system.  The bottom line is that education, therapy and having a plan changed my mindset. It gave me a second chance to live my life. I am now obligated to champion the powers of knowledge. 

Unfortunately, society tends to stigmatize individuals with criminal records, making it extremely difficult for them to find work. Overcoming this challenge requires us to challenge biases and stereotypes and acknowledge that people can change and deserve a second chance. Promoting empathy and understanding, we can create a more inclusive environment that prioritizes rehabilitation over punishment. Often more importantly, being committed and diligent about your own plan is the key. This is one of the steps in The Master Plan, the book and course available on APDS platforms in 18 states and over 200 facilities in the US. 

Offering opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals through employment and education is  vital to their successful reintegration into society. Research shows that only 16% of individuals are likely to recidivate when employed. To achieve this, we must dismantle stigmas, advocate for fair policies, provide education and skill development programs, collaborate with nonprofits, and implement inclusive hiring practices. By taking these measures, we can build a society that values redemption, lowers recidivism rates, and ensures a more equitable future.

Everyone deserves a second chance and by working together, we can break down barriers and create a brighter future for all. Join us in this vital work; together we can create a more just and equitable society. 

Unite with APDS to create opportunities for Justice-Impacted and 2nd Chance Living Wage Employers. 

Chris Wilson is also the founder of the Chris Wilson Foundation, which supports social entrepreneurs and prison education, including re-entry and financial literacy for returning citizens, as well as art-related programs.

Article by:

LaToya Newson, Ed.S, Administrator,
Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development

I started my professional career as an educator of chemistry and math to middle school children. I was afforded the opportunity to become an Educator in the Carceral system and then as an Administrator for the State of Tennessee’s Department of Labor. I saw first hand that an investment in 2nd Chances affords opportunity.  Justice-impacted individuals can be viewed from a new lens – one that provides them with an opportunity to see themselves differently and for society to view them as individuals who can contribute to closing the employment gap.

As the Assistant Administrator for the Adult Education Division at the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD), I have dedicated my career to empowering individuals through education. At TDLWD, we recognize the importance of innovative solutions to empower justice-impacted individuals. Our goal is to improve adult education outcomes, build prosperous communities, and enhance the lives of our constituents through education and skill-building.

I began my career in adult education as a way to supplement my income as a K-12 school counselor. I taught social-emotional learning by day and high school equivalency class at night in our local jail. I was blown away by the intelligence, the grit, and the overall perseverance of my students—my guys in the local jail. I saw the dichotomy of incarceration—the children of incarcerated parents were struggling to make progress in the K-12 classroom because they were scarred by the reality of having a parent behind the wall and the sadness of parents separated from their children due to poor choices and living in survival mode. 

“I knew I found my passion to help make the connection between the two pursuing opportunities to give these men and women all they needed to be successful outside of carceral facilities.” L. Newson 

The men I taught were looking for an opportunity to show themselves and their families that they could do something they were told they would never accomplish—earn a high school education.

Tennessee is unique in that it is the first and only state in the nation to have an office of reentry under the State’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development rather than the Department of Corrections. While this approach may not be conventional, it’s a common sense approach to addressing the high rate of recidivism plagued by our nation.

And the numbers don’t lie. Only 17% of justice-impacted individuals have access to education while incarcerated. However, 95% of people return to their communities upon release. With a living-wage career, the rate of return to incarceration drops to just 4%. This highlights the importance of preparing individuals for success while under our state’s supervision.

That is why we partnered with APDS in 2021 through a pilot education technology program for 72 justice-impacted learners in three Tennessee site counties: Grundy, Gibson, and Blount. The program was a resounding success, which led to the deployment of APDS technology devices and programs to approximately 8,000 learners across every jail in all Tennessee counties.

This initiative has impacted the lives of so many justice-impacted learners, and I am incredibly proud to be a part of this movement. With APDS tablets and programming, justice-impacted individuals throughout Tennessee have access to educational resources and training programs that can help them build the skills they need to succeed, including advanced level education, rehabilitation, and specialized training/certification offerings in industry-leading skills. This approach helps to ensure that justice-impacted individuals are fully prepared to succeed in the workforce and in their communities.

Our work with APDS and our commitment to education and training in corrections is a common sense approach to successful reentry. We are proud of our work and will continue to invest in education and training to help all individuals reach their full potential.

By Arti Finn, Host and Co-Founder APDS

I am thrilled to announce the launch of the APDS 2nd CHANCE Podcast, a community voice dedicated to changing corrections for good, and a new venture that I will personally host. Through this platform, I will speak with some of the most important change agents in corrections and highlight the critical work to educate and help justice-impacted individuals prepare for a living-wage career. Our guests will include policymakers, educators, advocates, change agents and most importantly, those who have been directly impacted by the justice system. Together we’ll discuss innovative programs, share personal stories, and explore strategies for changing the corrections system for good. 

I’m honored to release our trailer episode today on International Women’s Day celebrating the contributions of women in history, and those who have played significant roles in addressing some of the world’s most urgent social justice issues;  poverty, education and corrections reform. Women, in particular, face significant challenges when it comes to re-entry after incarceration. This month’s upcoming episodes will proudly feature female change agents that are paving the way for progress in corrections, and shedding light on the needs and opportunities for justice-impacted women.

Today, 83% of our nation’s incarcerated population have no access to programming. Additionally, approximately 70% of formerly incarcerated individuals remain unemployed one year after their release. Most justice-impacted individuals are released with little resources or skills, leading to alarming recidivism rates nationwide.  The company I co-founded, APDS, focuses on changing this by reskilling the incarcerated justice-impacted through education technology.  By providing the tools to everyone and individualizing our approach, we support everyone in their quest to earn a living wage career and contribute to society.

In 2014, when we started the company, we focused on bringing the best online education to incarcerated learners in order to help prepare them for re-entry better than when they entered the corrections system. Over the last nine years, our evidence-based EdTech curriculum has reached thousands of incarcerated learners at no cost to them or their families. But the opportunity to amplify our impact is what propels us forward.

With the 2nd Chance Podcast, we hope to amplify the voices that need to be heard and inspire change that is long overdue. 

“I want to change corrections from a space of warehousing to a place of true rehabilitation.” 


Whether you’re in corrections reform, an advocate for social change, or simply someone who cares about the well-being of our society, I invite you to join APDS and I on this journey of exploration and discovery. Tune in to the 2nd Chance Podcast, available now on all major podcast platforms, and join us in our mission to create a brighter future for justice-impacted individuals. Together, we can break down barriers and become the voice of change to educate and create a pathway to earn a living wage career, changing corrections for good!

Available on all podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Amazon Music.

Julian Blair knew nothing about cloud computing when he became incarcerated in a Washington, D.C. jail more than two years ago.

“I’d never done anything with a computer besides video games, typing papers in college, and downloading music on an iPad,” said Blair.

Now, after three months of work with an educational program led by APDS and Amazon Web Services (AWS) inside the jail, Blair and 10 other residents at the facility have successfully passed the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam.

Read more:

Lynn Nottage’s “Clyde’s” gets a showing at Rikers Island, and detainees have plenty of feedback …

Author: Peter Marks

Read Article

The New York City Department of Correction has increased the use of tablets since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to help offer information and resources to the individuals in custody within its facilities …

Author: Julia Edinger

Read More

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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