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.

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In early November, following reports of increasingly dangerous and inhumane conditions at the city jails on Rikers Island, I joined a group of business leaders for a tour of the facilities led by Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi and Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez. The purpose was to better understand the hard choices that policymakers face around criminal justice reform and public safety …

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The U.S. Department of Education recently announced it was inviting more institutions to participate in the Second Chance Pell experiment, a program first piloted during the Obama administration that allows a select number of approved colleges and universities to support incarcerated learners through Pell Grant funds. The change would allow as many as 200 two- and four-year colleges and universities to offer their prison-education programs through the experiment. The change comes after Congress finally lifted its prohibition of incarcerated individuals …

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Based on his 2019 book, Chris Wilson offers insight into building successful strategies for reentry in a new interactive course. NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, October 20, 2021 / — Chris Wilson, author of The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose, today launched an interactive online course to help incarcerated people prepare for successful reintegration into their communities and growth during their incarceration. Rooted in Wilson’s personal experience navigating life …

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In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden pledged to combat the sting of systemic racism, boldly promising that the “dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.” He took his first steps toward making good on that promise by signing a slew of executive orders focused on equity — including directing the U.S. Department of Justice to improve prison conditions. But Biden brings to this mission a checkered history with race and criminal justice. As a senator, he sponsored …

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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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