Ben & Jerry = Unlock Potential + Responsible Business Initiative for Justice come forward to disrupt the Poverty-to-Prison Pipeline

"Unlock Potential is a critical component of our Racial Equity work." --Allie Reid, Ben & Jerry's

Ben & Jerry’s today announced its participation in Unlock Potential, a ground breaking employment program for young people who are at greatest risk of incarceration

Ben & Jerry's Joins New Hiring Program for At-Risk Youth to Prevent Incarceration

NEW YORK, May 31, 2022  /PRNewswire/ -- Ben & Jerry's today announced its participation in Unlock Potential, a ground breaking, intentional employment program for young people who are at greatest risk of incarceration. Through Unlock Potential, employers aim to use hiring to advance racial equity, recruit the next generation of corporate leaders, and help disrupt the Poverty-to-Prison Pipeline.

"The importance of second-chance employment efforts cannot be overstated. But hiring individuals when they're released from prison isn't enough – we have to be taking steps to stop them ending up there in the first place," said Matthew McCarthy, CEO of Ben & Jerry's. "Data show that meaningful employment opportunities are one of the most impactful ways to prevent future incarceration. Unlock Potential will create those first chances."

Supported by Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity, the Unlock Potential program aims to tackle the profound racial inequality and economic immobility generated by justice-system contact. For example,  first-time incarceration can decrease lifetime earnings by more than 30 percent. These obstacles are also disproportionately felt by BIPOC communities. Black Americans are incarcerated at nearly five times the rate of whites, and studies have shown the effect of a criminal record on employment to be 40% more damaging for Black men than white men. By preventing incarceration before it starts, Unlock Potential can mitigate the resulting economic exclusion and help break intergenerational cycles of poverty.

Unlock Potential will also help businesses meet the unprecedented workforce shortage, their growing need to invest in future leadership, and their commitments to creating a fairer and more equitable society.

"Unlock Potential is a critical component in the advancement of our Racial Equity work," said Allie Reid, Ben & Jerry's Sr. Retail Racial Equity and Inclusion Manager. "Creating meaningful career opportunities for Black and Brown at-risk youth supports skill development and economic mobility in the communities we serve and exist in."

Unlock Potential will focus on the 4.4 million Americans identified as "disconnected youth": individuals aged 16 to 24 who are neither in education nor employment. These young adults are far more likely than their peers to suffer negative outcomes like poverty and incarceration. Unlock Potential will focus on a subset who have experienced one or more of the following additional risk factors for incarceration: an incarcerated parent, sex or human trafficking, the juvenile justice system, or the foster care system. By opening up economic opportunities for these individuals, participating employers can help address the root causes of mass incarceration.

Following the design consultation phase expected to wrap up in October, Unlock Potential will launch a 12-month pilot program. Assisted by the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice – cofounders of Unlock Potential – a handful of Ben & Jerry's franchised Scoop Shops will be matched with prospective hires to provide careers with real opportunity for advancement. Participants will also be connected with local wraparound support services through national non-profit Persevere to help ensure their success.

To learn more about the program, visit www.unlock-potential.org.

About Unlock Potential
Unlock Potential is an Intentional Hiring Program that brings together major employers to use hiring to disrupt the Prison Pipeline, by providing meaningful, long-term career opportunities for at-risk young people. It was founded through a partnership between the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice and Persevere, and is funded by Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity.

About Ben & Jerry's 
Ben & Jerry's is an aspiring social justice company that believes in a greater calling than simply making and selling the world's best ice cream. The company produces a wide variety of super-premium ice cream and Non-Dairy/vegan desserts using high-quality ingredients and lots of big chunks and swirls. As a certified B Corp, Ben & Jerry's incorporates its vision of Linked Prosperity into its business practices via values-led sourcing initiatives when purchasing ingredients. Ben & Jerry's is distributed in over 35 countries in supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, franchised Scoop Shops, and via on-demand delivery services. Ben & Jerry's, a Vermont corporation and wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever, operates its business on a three-part Mission Statement emphasizing product quality, a fair financial return, and addressing issues of social, racial, and environmental injustice around the globe. The Ben & Jerry's Foundation, guided by Ben & Jerry's employees, granted $3.7MM in 2021 to support progressive, justice-focused grassroots organizing around the country. For up-to-date information visit benjerry.com. 

About the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice
The Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) is an international non-profit organization working with companies to champion fairness, equality, and effectiveness across systems of punishment and incarceration. They engage, educate, and equip businesses — and their leaders — to participate in meaningful advocacy on key criminal justice issues, support policy-specific reform campaigns, and use their resources and operations to be a force for good in society.