First Round Capital teams up with Jay-Z to invest in bail reform startup

Promise is a Y Combinator startup tackling the costly and unjust problem of pretrial detention.

Is the legal system ripe for disruption? (Photo by Flickr user Joe Gratz, used under a Creative Commons license)

West Philly’s First Round Capital is leading a $3 million investment round in bail reform startup Promise, and entertainment mogul Jay-Z is involved.

“Our system is built on reducing recidivism,” Promise cofounder Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins told TechCrunch. “Our ideal outcome is the person gets a job, does not reoffend and does not continue in the system.”

Promise works with municipalities to help manage low-level offenders, rather than locking them up.

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Pretrial detention of people who can’t afford bail is costly problem. According to some estimates, more than 60 percent of the U.S. jail population is made up of people who can’t afford bail. It’s an issue that disproportionally hurts low-income communities.

“If you’re from neighborhoods like the Brooklyn one I grew up in, if you’re unable to afford a private attorney, then you can be disappeared into our jail system simply because you can’t afford bail,” Jay-Z wrote in a 2017 op-ed in Time, under the headline “For Father’s Day, I’m Taking On the Exploitative Bail Industry.” The investment in Promise appears to be Jay Z putting money behind that fight.

Companies: First Round Capital

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