Defying the odds: why everyone deserves a fair chance
Defy Southern California champions re-entry programming, workforce training and increasing fair chances for formerly incarcerated individuals in Los Angeles.
One in three Americans—nearly 70 million people—have an arrest or conviction record, barring them from meaningful employment and economic opportunity. This is a life-long burden that has ripple effects for families, local communities and economies. Defy Ventures has made it their mission to help formerly incarcerated individuals find success through workforce training and preparedness, and ultimately reduce the rate of Defy alumni returning to prison.
While Defy Ventures has a national presence, Defy Southern California was founded in 2016 to support the nonprofit’s local efforts. Defy Southern California has a growing post-release program and now serves seven state prisons and two transitional facilities. Quan Huynh, Defy Southern California Executive Director, shares how Defy’s Entrepreneur in Training (EIT) program has helped individuals find success after incarceration.
“The EIT program is really about giving individuals an entrepreneurial mindset and a way to transfer skills they already have,” says Huynh. “Whether or not they go on to start a business, we’re teaching them lessons on pivoting, resilience and grit, all of which will help in their re-entry journeys.”
As someone who was formerly incarcerated, Huynh participated in Defy’s programming and turned the skills he gained into a successful venture. Six months after his probation, he started a commercial cleaning company and has gone on to hire six employees, four of which are also formerly incarcerated individuals. He still runs his commercial cleaning company in addition to his role with Defy, helping to train others and provide them with the same fair chance he received.
Defy works with individuals who are currently incarcerated or transitioning as they prepare to find employment and beyond.
“Many of our EITs have already had some sort of entrepreneurial experience—maybe an illegal business—we teach them how to transfer those skills into legal businesses and careers and help prepare them for a fair chance,” says Huynh.
A big part of the equation is ensuring that the number of those fair chances continues to increase.
“We focus a lot on outreach to the business community in Los Angeles because they are key to that opportunity size,” says Andrew Glazier, President and CEO of Defy Ventures. “When we’re supported by places like JPMorgan Chase it not only goes a long way for us to support the work, but also advocate for fair chances at both a national and local level.”
JPMorgan Chase has expanded its commitment to giving people with criminal backgrounds across the nation a Second Chance by supporting their re-entry into the workforce, community and local economies.
Local businesses can also get involved through Defy’s business coaching events where volunteers support EITs as they develop employment readiness skills through the nonprofit’s CEO of Your New Life program. These sessions connect EITs with professionals for resume coaching, mock interviews, and career advice as they prepare for their employment search.
Defy’s programming has shown real results through the decrease of their alumni’s recidivism numbers — the rate at which individuals return to prison. At the one-year mark, less than 10 percent return to prison, and at three years, the rate of recidivism is less than 15 percent. The national averages range as high as 2 out of 3 of individuals returning to prison at the three-year mark. In addition to a steep reduction in recidivism, 84% of Defy graduate are employed full-time by their one-year mark.
“People often go back to prison because they can’t find an opportunity to be successful outside,” says Glazier. “The more opportunities we provide people to both prepare and put their skills to work proves that you can defy the odds. We are living proof — Quan is living proof.”
Learn more about Defy Ventures, opportunities to get involved and Second Chance hiring here.