TESA was brought on to develop a program in partnership with The Cooperative Fund of New England, The Boston Center for Community Ownership, and The National Community Reinvestment Coalition. This program’s purpose was to start an academy for launching worker-owned cooperatives inside of the Franklin County House of Corrections in Western Massachusetts.
The overall end goal of the project was to both start and run the academy, as well as to help launch the initial worker-owned cooperative, democratically employed and owned by the incarcerated individuals once they exited the jail. The worker cooperative’s business model is centered around collecting and using compost within the Western Massachusetts region.
For those getting out of jail, there are many financial hardships, both invisible and visible. There are court and parole fees, societal stigmas, the general costs of unemployment, and so much more.
That’s why finding a sustainable job post incarceration is so important but also so difficult, and it’s a challenge that worker-owned cooperatives are uniquely able to address. This program’s purpose was to help individuals that are currently and formerly incarcerated start their own cooperative businesses, providing them with secure and long-term working opportunities.
Since 2014, TESA has been teaching a class on cooperatives, in partnership with Greenfield Community College and within the Franklin County House of Corrections in Western Massachusetts. Beginning in 2015, we launched the composting cooperative for inmates leaving the jail. Working on these two projects, we realized that we needed a more focused platform to engage formerly imprisoned individuals during the process of launching their own cooperatives. As a result, we worked to develop this co-op academy. This new cooperative academy acts as a point of entry for currently incarcerated individuals that want to become worker-owners of the composting cooperative after they are able to leave the jail.
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Image via Flickr user solylunafamilia.