You can also listen on iTunesStitcher, and Google Play.

Teresa Y. Hodge, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of two nationally recognized criminal justice innovation companies, R3 Score Technologies, Inc. and Mission: Launch, Inc., joins the program to share her own journey of securing employment after prison. Discover what it will take for corporations for meet their DEI goals when it comes to hiring untapped talent that has an arrest and/or conviction record.

In this episode you’ll discover:

  • Teresa’s diversity story, including going to prison at 44 years old (5:50)
  • How Teresa was changed by her experience (9:00)
  • Why Teresa was denied access to capital as she grew her business (13:00)
  • The need to shift the narrative around returning citizens (16:00)
  • Why we need protections around criminal background checks (19:00)
  • The projection of how many Americans will be justice involved by 2030 (30:00)
  • Why people with arrest or conviction records often make great employees (32:00)
  • How to manage public safety with DE&I (37:00)
  • Why we need to be skeptical about fears about this population (39:00)

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

JENNIFER BROWN: And if we were to start from scratch today, would we create a five-day work week? I don’t know. I mean, there are now organizations, companies, even entire countries, I believe Spain is trying this, that are experimenting with a four-day workweek.

JENNIFER BROWN: Would we do 9:00 to 5:00? At a time when so many businesses are global and we work with people across time, zones does 9:00 to 5:00 really makes sense? You could rethink every single element of the workplace. Because if we were going to start from scratch today, I don’t think it would resemble what we have now.

DOUG FORESTA: Everyone has a diversity story, even those you don’t expect. Welcome to the Will To Change with Jennifer Brown. Get ready to hear from leading CEOs, bestselling authors, and entrepreneurs, as we uncover their true stories of diversity and inclusion. And now here’s your host, Jennifer Brown.

DOUG FORESTA: Hello, and welcome back to the Will To Change. This is Doug Foresta, and in this episode, Teresa Hodge joins the program. Before we say a little bit about her, though, I want to let that the next DEI foundations course begins, the next round begins on August 24th.

DOUG FORESTA: And to learn more about it and to register, you can go to jenniferbrownconsulting.com, click on courses, and you’ll see the DEI foundations course there. You can learn everything about the six-week online course for inclusive leaders. And of course, as I said, register for the program. So, I encourage you to do that.

DOUG FORESTA: And in this interview, Teresa Hodge joins the program. She is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of two nationally-recognized criminal justice innovation companies, R3 Score Technologies Inc, and Mission: Launch Inc. She is a champion for people living with criminal records. Recently named to Forbes 50 Over 50 lists. Teresa advocates nationwide for tech inclusion for people living with arrest and/or conviction records.

DOUG FORESTA: And as an advocate, she informs and engages cross-sector influencers to close the digital divide created by mass incarceration in America. And you’ll see and hear in this conversation, again, her own amazing journey, as well as what she talks about in terms of what it will take corporations to actually reach their DEI goals when it comes to hiring untapped talent that has an arrest or conviction record. So, now onto the episode.

JENNIFER BROWN: Teresa, welcome to the Will To Change.

TERESA HODGE: Thank you so much. I’m super excited to be here with you today, Jennifer.

JENNIFER BROWN: I was delighted to meet you, and Jordan, and Sue Mason on a… Well, I met Sue Mason first from What’s Next Washington. Yep. And as an advocate for the formerly incarcerated, her own personal story of being incarcerated, and then her advocacy work with employers is something we continue to feature and it’s something that I think has really struck a chord with my audiences who are all… We tend to be the advocates in the system, right? In the organization who are pushing largely unwilling stakeholders to adopt more progressive practices, more inclusive practices.

JENNIFER BROWN: And it has just been a revelation a very disturbing one to realize the size of the talent pool of the formerly incarcerated or those with conviction histories, and how, if we could match that up to the “war for talent”, talent shortage that we are in, that seems like it’s kind of the new norma. I know nobody can find talent. In my entrepreneurial world, we are scrambling, and I know it’s the same in corporate. But, boy, would that be just incredible on so many levels?

JENNIFER BROWN: So you, I met you through Sue, and you and Jordan and the initiatives you’re working on, which I know we’ll talk about today. And I’m thrilled to give you this platform for your story. I want that to be told. And then we’ll go into some honors that you’ve received recently and where you see your own advocacy work going and what you most want the audience for the Will To Change to hear and understand, because these are… Our listeners are the ones that are creating change. They are the ones who are championing the idea today that people are uncomfortable with, that tomorrow we will look back and say, why did we delay? Why did this take so long?

JENNIFER BROWN: And that is the way. As you and I know, that’s the way change happens, right? There’s resistance, there’s fear, there’s questions. You are encouraging something where people just can not connect the dots. And we all live kind of ahead of the conversation, if you will. And we’re always, this is how I feel anyway, reaching back and saying, hey, a small group of us may be comfortable with this because we see all the value in it. But you and I know organizational change is like steering the ocean liner. It’s like trying to turn it and…

TERESA HODGE: Actually steering the ocean liner might be easier, but illegal.

JENNIFER BROWN: Because at least you know it will turn.

TERESA HODGE: Eventually, yeah.

JENNIFER BROWN: We take a few minutes but will turn. Yeah, I agree. So we’ll talk about all that. Let me invite you to share your story with our audience in as much detail as you’d like. I just want to hand that over to you and take it away.

TERESA HODGE: Yeah. No. Again, thanks. My story is a story of a person who went to prison a little bit late in life. I went to prison when I was 44 years old. It came out of nowhere. I was the first person in my immediate family to go to prison. And so I just didn’t have a lot of experience. I grew up in the suburbs, two family household. Just not what we consider and what people consider, what we have locked in our mind of who goes to prison. But I was an entrepreneur. I started a business. And my business was investigated and I went to trial to defend both myself and the business.

TERESA HODGE: And in the end we lost. And I was really devastated. I received an 87-month federal prison sentence. That’s seven years and three months. As a first time, white collar non-violent person. And at the time, I didn’t know that if you go to trial to defend yourself and you lose, you get more time. There are a lot of things I learned about this experience. And I always tell people, prior to this, my only introduction to the criminal justice system was kind of like watching law and order shows. Ironically, I still like those shows even though [crosstalk 00:07:14].


TERESA HODGE: Yeah. That was my only experience with it. And my father was military. So I grew up very patriotic, quite frankly. I just felt like, “Oh, something happened. The government doesn’t understand if I go to trial and talk and share my story and what happened that at best, this might be an administrative violation. I’d get a slap on the wrist. They taught me how to course-correct.” And instead, I went to prison.

TERESA HODGE: And I was floored. I was devastated, because, to be honest, prison is what happened to other people. It wasn’t supposed to happen to me. And yet there I was. I went to Alderson Federal Prison Camp. It’s the same prison that Martha Stewart went to. It’s the first and oldest federal prison in the United States for women. They call it Camp Cupcake, which I have no idea because there are no cupcakes, that’s for sure, along that journey.

TERESA HODGE: It was just really hard, but I took such good skills to prison. And it was in prison that for the first time I had to acknowledge as, a black woman, how privileged I was. Because it was in prison listening to the stories of other women, many who were different, but many who were also the same that I had to acknowledge that all I had to personally do was survive the journey. And that if I could survive the journey, I felt pretty confident that I would be able to come back and get on my feet. But I was so broken hearted by the time I left, because I was not sure how many other women who I had encountered would be able to do the same.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh yeah. That’s beautifully said. Thank you for being so vulnerable about that recognition of privilege and the many chances that you would get as a result of that. Okay. So you came out a changed person?

TERESA HODGE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JENNIFER BROWN: And then where did you feel called at that point? And what did you create?

TERESA HODGE: Yeah. So for me, interestingly enough, I was an entrepreneur before I went to prison. And so as entrepreneurs, we’re always looking for the opportunity. As brokenhearted as that was about going to prison, that entrepreneurial spirit was still alive. And what I knew was, seven years and three months later, the thing that I would know the most about was going to be prison when I came home from prison.

TERESA HODGE: And so I went into prison with an openness and a willingness to observe, to observe everything that was around me. And when I came home, I came home committed, committed to being a voice for some of the women, as well as men who might not have the same platform that I felt like I could potentially create. And that I could serve as a witness to what I saw.

TERESA HODGE: I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do, but I knew that what I had experienced had changed my life and that I could not see myself doing anything other than creating solutions, solutions that would help men and women get back on their feet post-incarceration, solutions that would help families reconnect, solutions that would help communities survive by reinstating people once they came home from prison.

TERESA HODGE: That has taken on many forms. I started a non-profit mission launch when I first came home. And that was to use entrepreneurship as a way to help people get on their feet, because so many people go to prison, come home, look for jobs, employers wouldn’t hire them. And so the thought was, well, you might have to create a job.

TERESA HODGE: I got really frustrated quickly because what I discovered was we could teach people entrepreneurship, however, they couldn’t get growth capital from banks. So I just started growing frustrated. Right around that time, a local non-profit bank came and said, if you’re willing to help us vet candidates who have arrest or conviction records, and you tell us, Teresa, which ones to bet on using your gut instinct, if you do that, we’ll give them loans. I thought that was an interesting concept and thought, I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life, but what if technology could do it?

TERESA HODGE: So I co-founded our R3 Score Technologies with my daughter, Lauren. And today our R3 Score is a more inclusive background check being used specifically for people with records, but also for people without records, to help employers, decision-makers understand who is the person today, standing in front of you, acknowledging that there was or there is a criminal history, but also digging deeper and just trying to make sure is this person ready for opportunity. So that’s kind of the broader work that I’ve been working on.

JENNIFER BROWN: Excellent. And how big did R3 or how has R3 gotten? And I know at this point you personally were still and are still suffering the effects as a founder and a CEO of having started and grown this company. So what were those effects? How did that hold you back? And what are some, I would say highlights and lowlights, but I think there’s probably more lowlights? So what did you come up against as a successful entrepreneur?

TERESA HODGE: Interestingly enough, I created… I am a person who I’ve always led with the fact that I had a criminal history, because I just feel like it’s important to bring your whole self. I felt like I was an authentic leader prior to incarceration. And I wanted to hold on to that. I didn’t want going to prison to be my dirty little secret.

TERESA HODGE: But as I built technologies, specifically for people with arrest or conviction records, I was often denied access to opportunity, access to money to grow the business because I had an arrest or conviction record. People liked my solution, they didn’t like the fact that I was the leader of the company with arrest or conviction record. So often, when applying for loans or opportunities, you have to complete applications and all my applications is that question, have you ever been convicted of a crime? And at times when I checked that box, both my company and I were denied the opportunity.

TERESA HODGE: And so it has been really frustrating because I created a company and a tool that I believe can be a game-changer, and then in order for the company to really grow, I had to make our personal decision to step down because I could not carry it all the way across the finish line. And because I was so committed to the solution, I was willing to step down. And so that’s was one of the lowlights.

TERESA HODGE: The highlights is the fact that this tool is being used by corporations. The company has some good announcements coming in the future. And so I’ve just kind of transitioned a little bit to the side of the company. And I do marketing. I’m a spokesperson for the tool. I’m speaking more in the diversity equity and inclusion, just helping lane, helping corporations to understand how do we operationalize inclusion. Because it takes more than a pledge. It takes tools, often. And so I can point to this tool that I know a lot about, because I helped to co-create it.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s just irony of ironies that it came calling for you. And you had to… But you… How wonderful that your daughter is interested and able to lead and at your role, can transition. And I’m sure that maybe you would say that there were vistas that opened up for you in the role, another role that you could play in the conversation because you weren’t CEOing. I wonder, sometimes there’s a silver lining to these things, but the fact that that happened, I wonder if you’re applying your advocacy, specifically to the fact that you had to step down? And I’m not sure who would you be advocating for change of policy, too, in that case that impacted you so directly.

TERESA HODGE: Yeah. That’s one of the things that I am… My advocacy is reshaping. When I first came home, I was doing more storytelling, more highlighting, and trying to shift the narrative of who goes to prison, just using my own story. And giving voice to some of the experiences.

TERESA HODGE: Today, I am really more interested in law shifts. People who have arrest or conviction record serve an invisible life sentence, quite frankly. They serve it for the rest of their lives. They bump up against scenarios like the one that I just talked about. Or they go to apply to live somewhere, and they can’t live somewhere because of the record. I talked to someone who they were telling me they navigated finely in their career. And 20 years later, they couldn’t live in a certain neighborhood because of the homeowners association.

TERESA HODGE: So I’m now, more so, on a mission to just help normalize the fact that one in three Americans has an arrest or conviction record and we’ve gotten out of control. and we cannot continue to other, a third of our country, and lead them lock out of opportunity, whether that’s workforce opportunities or other opportunities like housing, access to banking, and so forth.

TERESA HODGE: And I have my eyes on two policies, one that would really help me, quite frankly, which is, after a person has been home from prison for a long time, I believe that the record should be wiped out. We shouldn’t have to wait for a few selected individuals to get presidential parties. We should just have some laws in place that this person has come home or they’d been X number of years away from that criminal history and they are on a different course in that path. And we just need to remove the barriers that keep them locked out of opportunity.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes. It seems so obvious, but it’s just one of many, many things that is really outdated and we just need to make a lot of noise about it. And make a lot of-

TERESA HODGE: Yeah. Exactly.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. You said two policies. So one was that, is there another?

TERESA HODGE: Yeah, there is another one. There are very few protections for people who have arrest or conviction records, the Fair Credit Reporting Act governs background checks, just like it governs our credit scores, but we put a lot of emphasis on protecting our credit and giving people a pathway to dispute information that might be incorrect on their report. But when it comes to our criminal history, those protections don’t exist. And the laws and the policies are there, there does not supported the same way.

TERESA HODGE: And so there’s a lot of, maybe, bias. And maybe the advocacy just hasn’t pushed into that direction, but that’s… One of the things that Sue Mason and I are working on together is can we get some laws changed around the criminal background check? Because the criminal background report is actually the biggest barrier. Nine out of 10 employers run a criminal background check, four out of five landlords, three out of five universities, and banks do all manner of things when it comes to it.

TERESA HODGE: But basically the fact that a person has a record, we can’t undo our past, but there has to be a way to ensure that information that’s on your criminal background report is, one, accurate, and two, if it’s not, that there’s a path to have it fixed.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes, absolutely. Thank you for being really specific about that. And if you could pick like three companies who, if they changed their approach and the way that this happens as a result of your advocacy, who would those companies be? Just so we can kind of locate ourselves in the sort of the main stakeholders that hold the keys to change.

TERESA HODGE: Actually, I think in this case, the main step… That would have go back just a little bit, Jennifer. Maybe we do this section. I need you to restate the question so that I can make sure I understand it.

JENNIFER BROWN: So, Teresa, if your advocacy were to be in, and it is, I’m sure targeted to certain companies, specifically, or industries where if you’re in partnership and they do what you’re recommending, it would change the whole conversation, which companies would those be?

TERESA HODGE: I think, one I would go to the Business Roundtable with the top 200 corporations in the United States. Many of them have initiatives around this and are the largest employers in general. I think JPMorgan Chase has been a really solid advocate. In the financial space, Walmart, as well, has been a real champion. And I would like to see one of the tech giants step up, as well, in this space and just really helped to champion this.

TERESA HODGE: And I think that with them in partnership with the advocacy community, and with the current administration, that we have some willing partners who could really look at laws that could just be adjusted, or to ensure that the protections are there.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right.

TERESA HODGE: Thank you.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you. That’s very helpful, because you just know we have a lot of powerful folks that listen to this. And I think this might help to get very specific and see and understand your vision. You and I were talking before we hit record about, it’s one thing to champion these things, it’s another thing to deal with the reaction on the part of employees, existing employees to a company changing its policy in the ways that you’re outlining.

JENNIFER BROWN: These are these kind of intangible cultural facts that we have to deal with because those can block change and adoption, and they can make the architects of changing these policies. I think they really threatened the sentiment around this, can really threaten the ability for companies to institute this.

TERESA HODGE: Absolutely.

JENNIFER BROWN: So what are you finding…? I mean, I hope you’ve seen positive change. You just mentioned a couple of companies that are doing a good job, but that persistence, I’m sure of people’s stereotypes and the stigma follows these initiatives and really slows them down or even blocks things from being. And the fear is not the same as reality, is not the same as real risk. So tell us about what you’re finding in terms of adoption and comfort and all those things?

TERESA HODGE: Well, I really wish I had something really exciting and good to report-

JENNIFER BROWN: I knew you’re going to say that.

TERESA HODGE: … around this. I really do because when we think about the last a year, post the country witnessing the George Floyd murder. And there was so many corporations that really stepped out and made a lot of significant pledges around what they were going to do, especially to black and brown communities. And what we know are black and brown communities are disproportionately impacted by our criminal legal system.

TERESA HODGE: And there are a lot of corporations who’ve taken pledges. There are a lot of corporations who, I believe, have the desire in theory, but when it comes to taking the right next-steps, there are so many excuses that are made. And one of the excuses is just that there’s fear around what would our staff think if we hired people with records. Would they be afraid? All of these conversations that they’re just hard to get over. And it puts you in a position where you’re having conversations for months, if not years, around how do you as a corporation muster the courage to take the next steps.

TERESA HODGE: I can speak from my own personal experience. When I came home from prison, I was given a job by a friend of mine who felt like have good skillsets. But then he told me, don’t tell your coworkers, because he… And I honestly believe he thought he was doing me a favor. But in the end, I wasn’t able to share a part of my life, when it was appropriate, with my coworkers. I felt like I was always lying. I couldn’t bring my whole self to work. And it forced me to deny an important and recent identity, the fact that I had a record and had been to prison.

TERESA HODGE: It also meant that when I needed help around something that was very simple, I couldn’t ask my coworkers about something because they would have felt like I should have known that information. And in the end, it keeps America’s very little secret about prison and incarceration, a secret. It keeps us othering of people. And it robbed my coworkers of the year experience to grow an empathy and to learn about something maybe that they didn’t know about.

TERESA HODGE: And it robbed that corporation the opportunity of knowing how to work around a challenging situation, like someone who’s qualified but also has a record and who’s recently come home and might have some challenges, because there’s probation and times when they might need to adjust their hours a little bit, or a probation officer wants to show up and do a site visit just to make sure you’re still on the job.

TERESA HODGE: All of those things, I had so much pressure to keep the secret. And it was just hard. So I understand this is complicated stuff, but if we keep it in our minds as a problem, then we don’t fix it. And it wasn’t until I left that particular job that I was able to send an email to some of my coworkers, so we had become friends, and I shared it with them. And their response was just a human response. One, they felt bad that I had to keep that secret for so long. And they didn’t like me any less. As a matter of fact, they were kind of impressed with the journey. And they had questions that I was able to ask afterwards.

TERESA HODGE: So when one in three Americans have an arrest or conviction record, we’re already engaging with people. We’re engaging with them in the grocery store. We’re engaging with them in school parking lots when we’re all dropping our kids off or in our faith-based communities. It’s not like a third of the country is living in one place of the country. We are among people with records and without records. It’s an imagination that we have to get over because it keeps the bias circulating.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s mean. I was flashing to the secrets we all keep and the advice we get around what the company we work for is ready to handle or not and whether that is accurate or not. The number of times LGBTQ people, for example, who are closeted in the workplace are warned, “Oh, we don’t talk about that here.” Or, “Well, I think that leader that you work for won’t be friendly to that.”

JENNIFER BROWN: So I do think, like you’ve outlined, the missed opportunity to grow together through this and to be changed by knowing you and knowing your whole story, and then just the terrible effort and the exhaustion and the fatigue of keeping secrets, it’s just-

TERESA HODGE: Oh my gosh.

JENNIFER BROWN: … oh my gosh. It’s so bad for us. It’s so bad. It’s just bad all around.

TERESA HODGE: And you nailed it on the head. I was so tired. And I didn’t recognize how tired I was until I left that job. And it was just not being able…. The fear of be outed. The fear of someone knowing. The fear of them Googling me. And in that moment, they would’ve maybe thought I was lying and trying to keep it from them, when, in general, I was told, don’t share this information. And I wanted to be a good employee. I needed the job. I needed to keep the job. But it was just such a missed opportunity, but it’s the reason why one in three Americans have this arrest or conviction record.

TERESA HODGE: And if you go into a large room and you speak to people, you hear a gasp, because people are like, “Oh my God, I didn’t know.” But you didn’t know because we don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about it at work. And when I think about it, I think we just have to normalize this. That’s it. It just has to become normal.

TERESA HODGE: We have overly incarcerated our citizens to the point where one in three Americans have an arrest or conviction record. And by the year 2030, that number is going to be 100 million Americans. One and two working-age adults will have an arrest or conviction record. So we can’t kick this can further down the road. We actually just have to deal with it.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. Those are staggering numbers truly. I’ve learned from you, and Sue, and Jordan some surprising characteristics of formerly incarcerated talent once they are employees. Could you share a little bit about… So debunk some assumptions or some myths maybe out there about the characteristics, the motivations, the identities of those with records in terms of actually the truth of what kinds of employees?

TERESA HODGE: Yeah. So, one, when you think of more than 70 million Americans, I think the number is closer to about 80 million right now. We’re not a monolithic, right? There’s not one type of person that goes to prison. There’s not one experience. And so when I was incarcerated, I was incarcerated with people who had law degrees. I was incarcerated… I always tell people I was incarcerated with prostitutes and politicians and everything in between.

TERESA HODGE: And so prison has become a microcosm of who we are, and the talent that we have in the United States. And so a lot of people who come home from prison, they’re ready to work and they have good skillsets. And others are just ready and willing to work. Whether it’s a landscaper, or a cashier, or someone with tech skills, or law degrees, or engineers, they exist and they have arrest or conviction records.

TERESA HODGE: A lot of employers will tell you that some of their very best employees are people with arrest or conviction records. Not only do they come early and stay late, they don’t leave your job. And probably, for good reasons, because they’re just so grateful to have a job that they don’t want to go back to that process, again, of checking boxes and being re-judged and re-convicted, in a sense, of their crime.

TERESA HODGE: I’ve had a friend of mine who hired someone and he said he was in business for over 30 years. And he said, by and large, the best employee that he had was a gentlemen who had served about 10 years in prison. And he said he was just the most loyal, dedicated, willing to do anything and grow employee.

TERESA HODGE: Most people who leave prison, I will tell you, the thing that they want to do is get back on their feet, reconnect to community, reconnect to family, get a job work, and just tap into the American Dream of work in dignity, because work is a form of dignity. It’s where we often get new community members, new friends, have a sense of belonging. And it’s such an important part of the journey that if a person goes to prison, being able to come home and do the job is just such an important part of ensuring whether that person’s going to be successful or not.

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It’s fundamental. Absolutely. Going back to the boss who advised you not to speak about it, what would have been the right way, do you think, for you to enter the organization? What is the best case scenario, if you could teach us about how things should be communicated, to whom and when, so that you would have felt like you were set up for success and you didn’t have to manage the secret on behalf of the organization?

TERESA HODGE: Exactly. Well, the fact that I had gone to prison was actually… That was my narrative. I am a person who had a level of maturity and enough intelligence to know how to tell my story and not to show up on day one and walk up to everybody and say, “Hey, I have a record.” But to allow people to get to know me and to tell that story when it made sense and where it made sense.

TERESA HODGE: I think that employers need to, that they should let their staff know we are an inclusive workforce. Period. And among our employee, our staff, we’re going to have people from all walks of life who are going to come in and we are going to hire qualified and best candidates. I was hired for the job because someone thought I could actually do the job. I was ready. I was ready. I was qualified. Quite frankly, I was overqualified. Even after having gone to prison and being in prison, I was qualified for this particular job.

TERESA HODGE: And so I think he could have given me some parameters of, “Hey, here are all the people who know. And when you’re ready, you can tell them. And if you don’t want to tell them, you don’t have to tell them.” But the fact that I was told not to tell them, it was like deny something. In my case, it was deny the last five years of your life.


TERESA HODGE: And that’s hard. And so… Yeah. We tell people we want them to bring their whole selves to work. And we do. It doesn’t mean walk in and tell us everything that you’ve done in your life, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: Right. Oh yeah.

TERESA HODGE: We do want you to actually work. I have this fine line because I worked as a headhunter for some time. And I worked in an HR department. So I actually… And I’ve been an employer. So I understand what it’s like I feel like on both sides of the equation. And so often I sit in the middle of this. It is hard to find talent. It is hard to find qualified talent. And there is a risk that I know employers have to manage that they want to manage.

TERESA HODGE: Public safety is important. Period. But I believe we can manage public safety and hire qualified candidates with records. I think that we can look at risk. Interestingly, enough a person who’s been home from prison for, I believe the statistic is around 10 years, is less likely to commit a crime than a person who doesn’t have a record. To say it differently, people who’ve committed crimes, often after, or after 10 years, are not going to commit a crime. Which really means the person without the crime or the conviction history is the person who might actually commit a new crime.


TERESA HODGE: And so with the bloating growing number, it’s not the same people being re-convicted, is what we have to understand that there are circumstances where people could commit crime and we just have to know how to measure and assess risk of all people, not just people with conviction histories.

JENNIFER BROWN: I hope everybody caught that example you just gave startling. Less likely to those who have the conviction history, 10 years out, less likely than your incumbent employees to commit a crime.

TERESA HODGE: Exactly. Absolutely. Another one of those backwards things that it’s just you turn it this way and you turn it another way and you look at the facts, but we live in this perception is reality world. We need to be just very skeptical about what we’ve been told and skeptical of fear and what it’s based on. And then get the facts. That was just so powerful.

JENNIFER BROWN: Teresa, I have to congratulate you, I really want to talk about this, that you were just honored, as I think it was the Forbes 50 Over 50 list. You were named to that list and I just want to appreciate that. And I want to know what it meant to you to be featured in that way. I’m sure it was something maybe you never thought would happen. But what has that felt like? What has it unlocked for you, maybe personally, maybe professionally? Just tell us about what that was like.

TERESA HODGE: Yeah. So first of all, if only this was a visual interview, you would see how much I’m beaming over here for the record.

JENNIFER BROWN: You should be. Oh my goodness. Take a victory lap because [crosstalk 00:40:33].

TERESA HODGE: I know. I am super proud of myself. And I had… It was the first time since being home that I paused to appreciate myself. It was the first time since being home that I pause to be fully present with all that I had accomplished. And to make this list where Vice-president Kamala Harris was on the list. I admire on those lists. I was like how in the heck did I get all this list?

TERESA HODGE: But if the truth be told, it is such an honor. And I’m not taking it lightly. I’ve been featured a lot. I’ve worked really hard. I’ve rebuilt my life, quite frankly, starting at the age of 50. And so what an honor to make the list while still in my fifties. And it’s how I’ve been able to really look at it. And I really want to leverage this. And I want to take it to new places. And I’m still thinking about this, Jennifer, quite frankly, because being over 50 is diversity in a whole nother way, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, yeah. And I just cross that line, too. [crosstalk 00:41:53].

TERESA HODGE: Oh, welcome. Welcome.

JENNIFER BROWN: It’s the best decade for us.


JENNIFER BROWN: Because it’s not like I give zero what’s anymore. It’s liberating.



TERESA HODGE: It is. And that’s how I feel. I feel like I have earned the right to talk about the things that I talk about and to basically say, I am carrying all of my identities. I’m sorry that you don’t like it, but I am who I am. All of my experiences today make me who I am. And so it was, again, such an honor to be a part of that list. And I’m looking forward to really… I want to encourage more people who have are in their fifties. They don’t have to have a conviction history, but what I am evidence of is you can have a setback in your life and it could be in your fifties and you can still live your best possible life.

TERESA HODGE: And I’m just really committed to that. I was committed to make sure that prison didn’t ruin my life for the rest of my life, and at the same time, I just don’t want it to ruin other people’s lives. It doesn’t have to be prison. It could be any setback. But being 50, I know that’s another layer of discrimination in the workplace. It was certainly a level of discrimination in the tech space of building tech as a black female founder, over 50, and with a criminal record. I was like, “Teresa, can you do anything harder?” What else can [crosstalk 00:43:38]?

JENNIFER BROWN: It does not surprise me that you were chosen for that really difficult task, because you’re a magical human. It’s just so inspiring to listen to you. And you’re so humble and so gracious. And it’s just so real and authentic. And there’s been so many beautiful pieces of wisdom in this conversation. And I feel right now sitting here that I just don’t want you to fight any of this alone. I feel very motivated to enlist allies and accomplices in this effort.

JENNIFER BROWN: And I wondered if, to wrap up, you could give us calls to action and ways that we can support you directly and/or this conversation’s effort. What can we do to push? Because this is, like I say, I’m really proud of the community that I get to spend so much time with, which is this, these fearless advocates that we’re always putting ourselves on the line, we’re always having the hard conversation, we’re always pushing institutions to be better and more human and more kind and more compassionate.

JENNIFER BROWN: And this is not even just kindness and compassion, this is business case.

TERESA HODGE: Yes. Absolutely.

JENNIFER BROWN: Literally, like you said, the number of people that we will not be able to consider for our workforce is staggering. We have no right to complain about the pipeline that’s missing if we don’t look at this. So we just have no right. And I hope that those dots get connected more and more, but what would you ask us to do that would be create the most lift for you?

TERESA HODGE: To be honest, one, I’m just grateful for the opportunity that you have given Susan, Jordan and myself, and then today, me, to be able to come and to talk about this. I would love just opportunities like this, to be able to share to our target audience, those DEI champions that are sitting inside.

TERESA HODGE: One of the things that we’re working on right now with Bank On 100 Million it’s bankon100million.com or bo100m.com, is we’re looking for 25 diversity, equity, and inclusion professionals who will come into community with us, serve as advisors, help provide us some guidance so that we can navigate faster to corporations, to start to use our tools. We want them to kick our tires, ask questions so that we’re really prepared and that we are in a position to help corporations who really want to operationalize diversity, equity, inclusion, and get there faster. We have tools to help them do it. We have opportunities for pilots with our tools. Susan and I come in together. We are bringing her Get Fit guide, which is an HR desk manual. We’re looking at digitizing it.

TERESA HODGE: We also have our R3 Score. And there are some new tools that we’re looking at creating so that corporations who are serious about diversity, equity, inclusion, serious about engaging this particular population, serious about getting a ready pipeline, that we want to be there to help them.And again, we know it’s not easy, but together, we know we can get this done. This is not an issue we need to lead to the next generation.

JENNIFER BROWN: No, it’s not. Oh, I love it. I’m so motivated. Teresa, it’s awesome. Maybe if you all are listening out there and you have this kind of influence and you have this sort of position, please get in touch with Teresa. Teresa, what’s the best way to find people’s way to you?

TERESA HODGE: Yeah. The best way is to reach me at Teresa, T-E-R-E-S-A, @bo100mcom. I’m also on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. You can find me @TeresaY, as in yes, Hodge, T-E-R-E-S-A-Y-H-O-D-G-E. I’m all these, TeresaYHodge, on social media.

JENNIFER BROWN: Beautiful. Thank you, Teresa, for joining me. This was invaluable. And thank you for everything you’re doing every day.

TERESA HODGE: Oh, no, thank you so much for having me and for the Will To Change. I love everything that you’re doing. Super fan and looking for ways that we can partner and connect more.

JENNIFER BROWN: You know that going happen. Thank you.




JENNIFER BROWN: Hi, this is Jennifer. Did that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com. You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity inclusion and the future of work, and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.

DOUG FORESTA: You’ve been listening to the Will To Change, uncovering true stories of diversity and inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you’ve enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening, and we’ll be back next time with a new episode.