Written by: Keegan Caldwell

Imagine an entrepreneur. Who comes to mind? Is it a well-known figure like Steve Jobs or the Shark Tank cast? Or perhaps a recent college grad in a business suit? Maybe even someone like me—the founder and global managing partner of a law firm. But here’s the twist—what if I told you I’m also a formerly incarcerated person?

Surprising? Research indicates that individuals with a criminal record often turn to entrepreneurship to overcome hurdles like unemployment, job discrimination, legal restrictions and lower wages. SCORE reveals that “Formerly incarcerated individuals are 45% more likely to become entrepreneurs versus those without a criminal record.”

Entrepreneurship, in my case, wasn’t about running a multi-million dollar company or creating groundbreaking innovations. It meant drawing from personal experiences to build a law firm.

My journey involved battling a narcotics addiction, facing legal challenges, seeking treatment, completing college, pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry, passing the patent and state bar and founding my own law firm. Through my struggles and successes, I understand why individuals with a criminal past turn to entrepreneurship. I can offer firsthand experience to support them on their business journey.

With the right support, entrepreneurial ventures can provide a path to a brighter future for those seeking to rebuild their lives after prison, offering higher income opportunities and decreasing the likelihood of recidivism.

Here are a few reasons why companies should consider humanizing their approach and building support programs for budding entrepreneurs.

1. Reimagine corporate responsibility.

Corporate social responsibility has become integral to recruiting and retaining employees and customers. While sustainability, diversity and charitable donations have been focal points, meaningful changes can occur at a community level.Skip Ad

When I applied for college, resources for incarcerated individuals were scarce. My journey from incarceration to entrepreneurship motivated me to help others facing similar challenges. Our firm engages in pro-bono work with incarcerated inventors, assisting them in obtaining patents and guiding them through their entrepreneurial journey.

Companies can create programs to assist aspiring entrepreneurs facing incarceration, offering support to help them secure patents and pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations. At my firm, this initiative—fostering a transition from inmate to entrepreneur—addresses the stigma associated with a criminal background by encouraging innovation and diminishing the likelihood of reoffending.

2. Create a better community.

Recidivism affects communities, impacting public safety. Limited employment and housing opportunities can lead to continued criminal activity for financial support. Successful reintegration into society through employment reduces the likelihood of re-offending.

Supporting formerly incarcerated individuals provides them with a second chance and contributes to building a more empathetic community. By reducing recidivism, communities can experience greater cohesion and trust.

Creating a better community starts by recognizing which individuals in your area need help. Incarceration, homelessness and poverty are present everywhere. Research local organizations working to help individuals affected by these issues, and ask what you and your business can do to help. Next, get your team on board. Ask your employees to volunteer their time, resources and skills where possible.

If your team is looking to help formerly incarcerated people, you can start within your own organization. Create inclusive hiring practices that look beyond criminal history. Lean on your team’s expertise, establishing mentorship programs or offering training and skill development courses. You can also provide financial support and resources or use your professional contacts to create networking opportunities and form corporate partnerships.

Take your commitment to helping one step further by launching public awareness campaigns and advocating for policy changes. Implementing these steps enables business leaders to contribute to creating a better community by empowering formerly incarcerated individuals to pursue entrepreneurship, reducing recidivism and fostering a more inclusive and supportive business environment.

3. Encourage the entrepreneurs.

Rehabilitation and community support programs are vital for entrepreneurial success. They emphasize the importance of connection and offer access to networks that help individuals find employment or start their own businesses.

I started my own business when traditional employment seemed impossible. This experience allows me to offer guidance to others facing similar challenges. Mentorship and allyship play crucial roles in making informed decisions about loans, permits, patents, hiring, marketing and more.

Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be hindered by a criminal background. By reimagining corporate responsibility to include programs supporting formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs, companies empower individuals from underserved communities, reduce recidivism, enhance community resilience and drive positive social change. It’s about humanizing the entrepreneurial journey and providing opportunities for everyone to realize their dreams.

This publication is distributed with the understanding that the author, publisher, and distributor of this publication and/or any linked publication are not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinions on specific facts or matters and, accordingly, assume no liability whatsoever in connection with its use. Pursuant to applicable rules of professional conduct, portions of this publication may constitute Attorney Advertising.

Read the article on Forbes.