ReEntry Acceleration Program (REAP)

The ReEntry Acceleration Program (REAP) at Columbia Business School trains MBA students to deliver business training to incarcerated individuals, develops tools for potential employers, and creates forums for new relationships to shape a solutions-focused dialog around post-incarceration employment.

About the ReEntry Acceleration Program (REAP)

The ReEntry Acceleration Program (REAP) focuses on improving employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated people (FIPs) and people with a criminal record. Through a partnership between the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise and the Center for Justice at Columbia University, the program consists of two initiatives that are designed to complement one another by educating incarcerated individuals, future business leaders (MBA students), and potential employers:

Delivering Business Training to Incarcerated Persons
Based on the pioneering work by Professor Greg Fairchild, ’02BUS/PhD, at the University of Virginia, MBA students are trained to teach incarcerated students inside of prisons. Leveraging the academic expertise at Columbia Business School, and in partnership with Resilience Education, Hour Children, Osborne Association, and local facilities, we teach a three-course curriculum covering financial empowerment, entrepreneurship, problem-solving and consensus building. This initiative is intended to provide valuable training to incarcerated persons, and to change the perspectives of the MBA students who teach these courses, around talent and hiring of FIPs.

ReEntry Business Forums for Employers
These Business Forums develop a network of businesses, reentry organizations, investors, and policy makers to develop a business case for hiring FIPs and people with criminal records. We also develop materials that highlight effective practices and address practical challenges employers may face when they consider hiring from this talent pool. Our goal is to engage businesses to provide FIPs with career-track jobs that lead to financial independence.

Participating organizations include:

  • Autodesk
  • Bureau of Justice Statistics
  • Drive Change
  • Fresh Direct
  • Hour Children
  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • JustLeadershipUSA
  • M.A.D.E Transitional Services
  • NationSwell
  • Partnership for New York City
  • Pigeonly
  • Refoundry
  • Resilience Education
  • SHRM Foundation
  • SkillSmart
  • The Fortune Society
  • The Marshall Project
  • The Osborne Association
  • The Trone Center for Justice and Equality
  • Wash Cycle Laundry
  • American Prison Data Systems
  • Beck Institute
  • Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation
  • Brooklyn Workforce Innovations
  • Bureau of Justice Assistance
  • Center for Employment Opportunities
  • Center for Justice
  • Columbia University
  • Community Service Society of NY
  • Entertainment Partners
  • FedCap
  • Getting Out and Staying Out
  • Greyston
  • Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
  • Katal Center for Health Equity and Justice
  • Malta Justice Initiative
  • Mayor's Office of Workforce Development
  • MindOpen Learning Strategies
  • National H.I.R.E. Network
  • National Workrights Institute
  • Neighborhood Benches
  • Nonprofit Finance Fund
  • NYC Center for Youth Employment
  • Per Scholas
  • Petey Greene Program
  • Phipps Neighborhoods
  • Second U Foundation
  • Shake Shack
  • Solutions Journalism Network
  • Strive International
  • The Council of State Governments Justice Center
  • The Doe Fund
  • The HOPE Program
  • Thicket Labs
  • WhenPeopleWork
  • Women's Prison Association
  • Year Up
  • Youth Represent
  • Zebra Strategies

Delivering Business Training

In the fall and spring semesters, Columbia MBA and Executive MBA students have the opportunity to learn about mass incarceration and teach a three-course curriculum covering financial empowerment, entrepreneurship, and negotiations at a local prison facility. B8584 REAP: Reforming Mass Incarceration and the Role of Business and B8580 REAP Immersion elective courses, provide selected students with a perspective and context, teaching training, curricular materials, assistance with transport arrangements, and other logistical support.

A joint initiative with Resilience Education, Hour Children and Osborne Association

This reentry education initiative is being jointly offered by Resilience Education, Hour Children, Osborne Association, and the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School.

  • Resilience Education is a nonprofit organization that partners with business schools to provide high-quality business curricula for incarcerated and recently released individuals. Their courses have been successfully taught in juvenile, state and federal correctional facilities in Virginia by MBA students and alumni from University of Virginia’s Darden Business School since 2011.
  • Hour Children is a non-sectarian, nonprofit agency that provides prison- and community-based services to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and their families. Their deep knowledge and experience in delivering programs inside state prisons and city jails, as well as hosting workshops for women at their Long Island City location, provided valuable feedback in the development of this initiative.
  • Osborne Association is a nonprofit that designs, implements, and advocates for solutions that address the damage caused by crime and incarceration. Their programs span all points of criminal legal involvement, from arrest and adjudication through community-based alternatives and diversion programs, to incarceration, reentry, and life rebuilt in our communities.

This unique partnership with REAP at Columbia Business School aims to increase post-incarceration employment opportunities which significantly increases the chances of successful reentry and a stable and productive future. In addition, Columbia's Center for Justice, the Heyman Center for the Humanities as well faculty from Columbia Law School who have been teaching courses in New York facilities, have also provided valuable advice for this initiative.

Courses are offered to women and men at Taconic Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, NY, and Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, NY. During the pandemic, these courses are being taught online to formerly incarcerated students connected to Justice Through Code.

Course Application Process

An invitation to apply for the B8584 and B8580 courses is sent out in April by email to MBA and EMBA students. Selected students will be required to be approved by the facility and Department of Corrections and attend a mandatory volunteers training provided by the facility.

Justice Through Code

Justice Through Code is a coding bootcamp that serves as a gateway for formerly incarcerated individuals to career track positions in the technology sector. The program is taught each semester and focuses on teaching formerly incarcerated individuals the fundamentals of programming in Python, as well as providing interpersonal skills training and networking opportunities. The program covers curriculum developed by Professor Mattan Griffel of the Business School, which focuses first on teaching participants the fundamentals of programming in Python, and then provides assignments designed to test participants’ knowledge of program material.

Justice Through Code is a partnership between the Center for Justice at Columbia University and the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School. This semester-long program started in Spring 2020, meeting in the evenings on Morningside Campus, but during the pandemic is being taught online. The course requires participants to complete at-home video lessons and coursework in order to receive a certificate of program completion.

Click here for more information, or watch the video about the program here.

About REAP Business Forums

REAP Business Forums are composed of employers and potential employers, together with reentry organizations, and are aimed at developing strategies to improve hiring opportunities for formerly incarcerated people (FIPs) and people with a criminal record. These forums provide support and training to businesses and organizations by sharing insights on effective practices with a broader range of employers than has traditionally been reached.

REAP seeks to build a scalable model of civically-engaged businesses and employers, reentry organizations, academic institutions, and others that work in concert to provide career-track employment for this talent pool that:

  • provides businesses wider access to the skills, productivity, and employment retention benefits of hiring from this employment pool as well as the financial incentives that are available;
  • breaks down negative perceptions and other barriers to employment;
  • reduces the recidivism rate through building long-term financial independence;
  • fosters economic development in underserved communities; and
  • builds the tax base through increased employment, wages, and profits.

Forum conveners:

Damon J. Phillips, former Co-director of the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise
Toney Earl, Founder and Executive Director, M.A.D.E Transitional Services

Connect with us on LinkedIn

Mission of the Business Forum

To enlist businesses to provide FIPs with career-track jobs that lead to financial independence.

Business Forum Breakfast Series and Working Groups

The Business Forum breakfast series provides an opportunity for Working Groups to develop strategies for helping employers find skilled workers who may have a criminal history and resources that will support their decision to hire a formerly incarcerated candidate. Topics include:

1. Hospitals and healthcare career pathways
2. Expanding computer & tech sector employment
3. Employers & FIPs narratives, strategies, & data: Marketing success
4. Knowledge & learning
5. Building the business case

If you are interested in a specific industry sector (or initiating a new sector working group), please contact Hannah Slow.

Past Events

December 7, 2021 — REAP Hospitals Breakfast Meeting Series
This series is a roundtable discussion bringing together leading NYC-area health care institutions around the topic of hiring employees who were formerly incarcerated and otherwise justice-involved. Featured speaker Gyasi Headen, director of workforce development at the Osborne Association, shared the perspective of system-impacted individuals seeking employment and answered questions from health care system employers.
November 12, 2019 — REAP Hospitals Breakfast Meeting Series
This series is a roundtable discussion bringing together leading NYC-area health care institutions around the topic of hiring employees who were formerly incarcerated and otherwise justice-involved. Episode 4 of "The Outside” was premiered, and roundtable participants discussed foundational education and best practices for health care employers seeking to successfully recruit and employ individuals with past criminal records in a health care setting.
April 18, 2019 — REAP Hospitals Breakfast Meeting Series
This series is a roundtable discussion bringing together leading NYC-area health care institutions around the topic of hiring employees who were formerly incarcerated and otherwise justice-involved. Eric Eingold, Esq. of Youth Represent, highlighted common mistakes made by employers while conducting criminal background checks and discussed best practices to limit an employer’s legal exposure as the meeting’s featured speaker.
November 26, 2018 — REAP Hospitals Breakfast Meeting Series
This series is a roundtable discussion bringing together leading NYC-area health care institutions around the topic of hiring employees who were formerly incarcerated and otherwise justice-involved. Yariela Kerr-Donovan, senior director of strategic workforce development at Johns Hopkins Medicine, was the featured keynote speaker at this meeting.
May 22, 2018 — Making Hiring FIPs a Way of Doing Business: A Framework for Employers that Works
View presentation
Yariela Kerr-Donovan, Senior Director at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health Systems
September 26, 2017 — Innovations in Employment: The Business Case for Hiring the Formerly Incarcerated
Vice MediaUber, and Buddha Booth, to discuss what motivates businesses to engage formerly incarcerated people, the potential resistance they face, and how to make the business case to boards, employees and customers.
June 29, 2017 — Business Forum Breakfast
View presentation
Megan French-Marcelin, Policy Research Manager of the ACLU
Roberta Meyers, Director of National H.I.R.E. Network (Legal Action Center)
April 26, 2017 — Business Forum Breakfast
View presentation
Koby Rotstein, Director of Business Development of Year Up
Lynn Allen, Technical Evangelist of Autodesk
March 1, 2017 — Business Forum Breakfast
Mike Brady, President & CEO of Greyston Bakery
Tariq Greene, Deputy Director of M.A.D.E. Transitional Services
Jordyn Lexton, Founder & Executive Director of Drive Change
Cisco Pinedo, Founder & President of Cisco Brothers & Co-founder of Refoundry
April 22, 2016 — Solutions to Post-Incarceration Employment and Entrepreneurship: The Role of Businesses and Universities
Go to website
Jeremy Travis, President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Ifeoma Ajunwa, Assistant Professor of Law, University of the District of Columbia; Ph.D. Candidate, Columbia University
Greg Fairchild PhD '02, E. Thayer Bigelow Associate Professor of Business Administration; Institute for Business in Society Academic Director, Darden School of Business, University of Virginia
Devah Pager, Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, Harvard University; Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
Michael Stoll, Professor of Public Policy and Urban Planning, Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Urban Poverty, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
Jose Zubizarreta, Assistant Professor, Decision, Risk and Operations, Columbia Business School; Affiliated Faculty with Department of Statistics, Columbia University
Bill Keller, Founding Editor-in-Chief, The Marshall Project
Lynn Allen, Technical Evangelist, Autodesk
John Dillow, Senior Product Manager, SkillSmart
Frederick Hutson, Chief Executive Officer, Pigeonly
Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO, The Partnership for New York City
Geraldine Downey, Professor of Psychology, Columbia University; Director, the Center for Justice, Columbia University
Ronald Day, Associate Vice President, Fortune Society
Paul Keefe, Supervising Attorney, New York City Commission on Human Rights
Victoria Sharp, MD, Former Director, The Spencer Cox Center for Health, St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital
Pamela Valera, Assistant Professor, Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University Medical Center

Resources for Employers

General Resources
Tools and Guides for Hiring Formerly Incarcerated People (FIPs) and People With a Criminal Record
Training & Support
What is the Business Case for Hiring From This Talent Pool?
What Have Other Employers Experienced When Hiring From This Talent Pool?
How Do I Select a Reliable Background Screening Company?
What Are the Concerns Around Negligent Hiring?
What Are the Entrepreneurial Opportunities for FIPs?

Understanding Race in the Mass Incarceration Crisis

Bias and Presumption of Guilt
Prosecution and Sentencing
Imprisonment and Detention
Reentry and Employment

Volunteer Opportunities

Osborne Association — Mock-Interview Preparation
Take part in a 60-minute orientation and facilitate mock interviews with Osborne members involved in the organization's career center.
Hour Children — Reentry Mentorship (Women)
Be listeners, guides and role models to Hour Women as they navigate the many challenges of their return home.
Parole Preparation Project — Parole Prep Volunteers
Train and work with parole applicants to develop comprehensive release plans, create compelling advocacy materials, and practice interviewing skills.
Court Watch — Court Watchers Program
Train and observe court proceedings, in order to report and enable greater accountability in the criminal legal system.
Justice Through Code — Mentorship Program
Support JTC students to further develop their technical skillset and exposure to the various specialization areas within tech.
Solitary Watch — Lifelines to Solitary Pen Pal Project
Receive training on guidelines for maintaining healthy correspondence, and ongoing advice on building relationships with people in solitary through letters, cards, and a special print newsletter, reminding them that they have not been forgotten by the outside world.



The Business Case for Hiring Someone with a Criminal Record
Language Use
The Importance of Education
The Case for Open Hiring
Employment’s Impact on Identity
Incarceration’s Impact on Women and Families
Employment Barriers Created by Licenses