JAY-Z backs Anti-Incarceration App ‘Promise’

By Jasmine Wing

JAY-Z and Roc Nation are now investors in a new app that’s aiming to reduce the incarceration rates across the United States.

The app, which is called Promise, was co-founded by Prince’s former manager, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, and human rights activist Diana Frappier in light of the controversies surrounding criminal justice reform.

Every year about 12 million people are crammed into jails across the country while 62% are kept in custody simply because they cannot afford to post bail (the monetary requirement that individuals awaiting trial must pay in order to be released.) Promise is an app-based bail reform and community supervision service. The app was at unveiled Y Combinator Demo Day by its creators Ellis-Lamkins and Frappier in March.

“Promise is at the forefront of the decarceration industry. We are making community supervised alternatives to jail and prison more scalable and effective over the long-term. We believe that a combination of technology and human touch is critical to helping people exit or avoid incarceration and to making their communities safer and stronger.”

Promise hopes to create “a cost-effective and more humane alternative to incarceration,” according to a press release.

The American entertainment company founded by Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter has announced it will back the new technology and community supervision program aimed at reducing prison populations across the United States.

Promise provides clients with financial assistance with bail costs along with other services to get people out of jail and keep them from going back. For instance, the app offers those on probation or parole with an “intelligent calendar” that sends reminders of court appearances, drug testing, and other important dates.

In a statement, Jay-Z applauded Promise for using technology and compassion to reduce recidivism and create safer communities. “We are increasingly alarmed by the injustice in our criminal justice system,” he said, reports Rolling Stone. “Money, time and lives are wasted with the current policies. It’s time for an innovative and progressive technology that offers sustainable solutions to tough problems.” The rap icon also credited the Promise team for “building an app that can help provide ‘liberty and justice for all’ to millions.”

Promise, which is part of Y Combinator’s current batch of startups, also received investments from the venture capital groups First Round Capital, 8VC, and Kapor Capital, raising more than $3 million in a first round. However, this isn’t the first app developed to help people pay for jail bonds. Help Bond Me, launched by an African American entrepreneur, Ben McFarlin, is another app designed to crowdfund bail money. Founder and CEO Ben McFarlin refers to Help Bond Me as “the crowdfunding platform for pre-trial detainees.”

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, hopes “to create a sustainable and scalable program that will reduce the number of people behind bars, recidivism and the cost of care by extending the capabilities of community supervision,” the company said.

You can find the Promise website here.

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