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Jay-Z Is Investing in a Company That Helps People Pay for Bail and Stay Out of Prison

Rapper Jay-Z has written lyrics about it, penned op-eds about it, and even stopped a recent concert to talk about it. For Shawn Carter, also known as Jay-Z, injustice in the US justice system has long been a through-line in his work on and off stage.  

Now, he’s putting his money where his mouth is. 

On Monday, Carter announced that his production company Roc Nation is investing in Promise, a startup aimed at helping people navigate the US criminal justice system, The Fader reports

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“We are increasingly alarmed by the injustice in our criminal justice system,” Carter said in a statement. “It's time for an innovative and progressive technology that offers sustainable solutions to tough problems.”

Promise was founded by two women — Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and Diana Frappier — and aims to bring about an “equitable criminal justice system by partnering with governments and community partners to improve long-term outcomes for all,” according to its website.  

The app, which has not yet been released to the public, will help incarcerated people pay bail, provide reminder alerts for people are on probation, and allow people in the criminal justice system to develop an Individualized Care Plan, among other services. 

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The app couldn’t come at a better time. 

According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the number of incarcerated people in the United States more than quadrupled between 1980 and 2015. Black people were more than five times more likely than whites to be incarcerated.

People of color and low-income people are more likely to face the brunt of the carcerative system in more ways than one. This includes the cash bail system, which disproportionately affects the poor.  

Often, people accused of crimes who languish in local jails have not been convicted, but are instead held in jail because they can’t afford bail. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, 70% of people in local jails have not been convicted of a crime. The average income for a person in jail was just $15,000 per year, or well below the national average of over 50,000. 

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Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which includes goal number 10: reduced inequalities. Reducing income inequality and ending racial discrimination — not just in the United States, but around the world — is critical for eliminating extreme poverty by 2030. You can join us and take action here

While Promise has not set a release date, the excitement is building, with Roc Nation’s investment coming in addition to similar contributions from Y Combinator, Kapor Capital, and 8VC, according to The Fader report.