Van Jones Wants You To Eat This Bread

The CNN commentator is the only person who made sense of the election. Now, he tells GOOD why you should trust him about prison reform

Ronnie Elrod is certain the second time’s the charm.

After serving 18 months in prison in 1986, Elrod thought he learned his lesson. But six years after his release, Elrod found himself in a familiar place: out of work and unable to find a job.

“Yet again,” he says, “I made some poor choices in life, made some mistakes as a result of those choices, and eventually ended up in trouble with the law.”

Those mistakes lead to a second, much longer stint in prison for a drug-related offense. Elrod would end up serving 15 years away from his family, friends, and the whole of society. After his release in 2010, Elrod knew he’d had enough. “The first time I thought I learned my lesson. The second time I knew I’d learned my lesson.”

Two weeks later, Elrod found himself at the door of one of the few companies willing to give him another shot. Inside Dave’s Killer Bread, a bakery outside of Portland, Oregon, Elrod runs every aspect of production—from placing product orders to overseeing staff—as the company’s director of manufacturing. He’s coming up on his seventh anniversary with the company in January 2017.

Elrod is a rare success story. More than 70 million Americans have a criminal record. For most, that record means having to check off a tiny box at the bottom of each and every job application stating that yes, at some point in his or her life, they fucked up. Moreover, the re-entry community is growing, causing even more competition for the few-and-far-between employers willing to look past that check. Of the more than 700,000 people released from U.S. prisons each year, between 60 and 75 percent are jobless up to a year after release, according to the National Institute of Justice.

“Perception is the biggest issue,” says Genevieve Martin, the executive director of Dave's Killer Bread Foundation. “This is not a troubled workforce. These are people that are going to be more loyal than Joe you hire off the street, because they know they have fewer opportunities.”

To help change hearts and minds of business owners everywhere, Martin, with support from Dave’s Killer Bread, founded the Second Chance Summit, a meeting of the minds for employers looking to help enhance the lives of the second-chance workforce. Not too surprisingly, Martin says, the first summit had a mere five employers show up. “My theory was that there weren’t enough people championing employment,” she says. Luckily for her, and the entire re-entry community, a new influential voice has entered the conversation.

“When I first started working on this issue, it was very difficult to get anybody to take me or my organization seriously,” Van Jones, CNN commentator, author, attorney, and social-movement maker says.

Jones is also the co-founder of #Cut50, an organization aiming to cut the American prison population by 50 percent over the next decade. He’s confident education and employment are two major keys to making that a reality.

“We’re now at a tipping point where, despite maybe some headwinds as you might expect out of the new administration, the vast majority now, in both parties, are open to reform,” he says, adding, “it’s been really incredible to see a bipartisan consensus emerge that we are locking up too many people for too long, wasting money, and wasting genius. And that there must be a better way.”

Part of that better way, Jones says, is changing the way we think about about the prison population.

“Every single person has broken the law,” he says. “Some people get caught. Some people don't. So the idea that you’re hiring people that have broken the law, well guess what, everybody in your employee workforce has done that. So the question is, who got caught?”

Another part of shifting the re-entry conversation is getting the Democrats onboard (yes you read that right).

As Jones points out, three Republican governors have closed more prisons over the last few years and reduced more of the prison population than any of the Democrats. In Texas, former Gov. Rick Perry closed three prisons and significantly lowered the crime rate. Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia brought about a 10 percent reduction the state’s prison population, lowered the crime rate, and saved “about $20 million bucks,” Jones says. Meanwhile, in 2011, Ohio Governor John Kasich also brought about criminal justice reform to send nonviolent offenders to rehab instead of prison saying at the time, "If you're going to put your own future ahead of other people's lives and their ability to reclaim their lives, then you're making a big mistake."

Another step in the right direction, according to Jones, is celebrating those companies willing to open their doors to the second chance workforce.

“Dave’s Killer Bread is killing it. It’s an extraordinary company,” he says, explaining, “It’s not abstract; this is not conceptual. You actually have real employers making smart decisions and having great outcomes.”

Those outcomes are personified in people like Ronnie Elrod. “As an organization we invest a lot of resources into growing people, teams, and leaders,” Elrod explains when discussing his more than 20 employees who have since moved on to new employment opportunities because of their experience with Dave’s Killer Bread. “We cheer them on,” he says, adding, “This is good for families, it’s good for our communities, it’s good for society.”

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

Keep Reading Show less
Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert

This election cycle, six women threw their hat in the ring for president, but is their gender holding them back? Would Americans feel comfortable with a woman leading the free world? Based on the last election, the answer is a swift no. And a new study backs this up. The study found that only 49% of American men would feel very comfortable with a woman serving as the head of the government. By comparison, 59% of women said they would feel comfortable with a woman in charge.

The Reykjavik Index for Leadership, which measures attitude towards women leaders, evaluated the attitudes of those living in the G7 countries as well as Brazil, China, India, and Russia. 22,000 adults in those 11 countries were surveyed on their attitudes about female leadership in 22 different sectors, including government, fashion, technology, media, banking and finance, education, and childcare.

Only two countries, Canada and the U.K., had a majority of respondents say they would be more comfortable with a female head of state. Germany (which currently has a female Chancellor), Japan, and Russia were the countries least comfortable with a female head of state.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.