We Are Promise

We believe the criminal justice system in the United States is broken.

Instead of working to improve outcomes, the system has prioritized punishment and incarceration over measurable, positive outcomes, leading to the highest rate of incarceration of any industrialized nation. The toll on individuals, families, and communities is enormous and growing. As criminal justice advocates, people of color, technologists, lawyers, and community members, we see the disastrous impact on families, neighborhoods, and the larger social fabric.

We believe the system can be fixed.

Across the nation, people from all walks of life—both inside and outside of government—are anxious for change. At Promise we believe that collectively, we can take steps that will make communities safer while reducing the cost**Incarceration is costly to individuals, families, governments, and communities. Read more about cost... of the criminal justice system to governments and to individuals, families, and communities. But to make scalable and sustainable change, justice agencies and communities must have evidence. Programs must be designed and continually adjusted based on how they meet the needs of individuals and communities.

Our Vision for the Future

  • The criminal justice system delivers positive, effective interventions.
  • Justice is truly equitable, without systemic racial, economic, or religious biases.
  • Communities of color and vulnerable populations trust the criminal justice system.
  • Justice agencies and the communities they serve continually evaluate approaches and outcomes, making adjustments to programs based on evidence and a shared vision of success.

We’re building technology to make this future a reality.

Our Mission

  • Empower people with tools to successfully navigate the criminal justice system.
  • Support criminal justice agencies in delivering better services.
  • Accelerate the use of just & equitable alternatives to incarceration.
  • Improve public safety.

What We Do

Our focus today:

  • Helping people under community supervision successfully navigate the criminal justice system. SMS and smartphone apps that help clients successfully complete supervision requirements.
  • Increasing the effectiveness of case managers. Web tools and support systems that help case managers serve more people while spending more time developing supportive relationships.
  • Measuring outcomes. A Data platform that helps county officials define, assemble, and analyze relevant metrics to understand important benchmarks such as cost of care and recidivism.

What comes next:

  • Delivering case management and staffing support services in jurisdictions where they don’t exist.
  • Providing tools that help participants and case managers locate and evaluate service providers to help meet their individual needs.
  • Customizing our participant support systems for specific populations such as people struggling with addiction.
  • Providing tools that help service providers measure and demonstrate the effectiveness of their programs.

As we grow:

  • Providing a platform where diverse stakeholders can share data and collaborate on participant care, driven by a shared interest in the same beneficial outcomes.
  • Improving Risk Assessment and providing tools for criminal justice that address sources of bias.

As we grow, we want to know:

  • What approaches are effective in getting people out of jail and keeping them out?
  • Are participants and case managers satisfied with how we support them?
  • Are we making progress towards outcomes we care about such as reducing arrests associated with technical violations or improving overall public safety?

There are more than 3,000 counties in the United States. Each has its own unique combination of criminal justice and social service agencies, infrastructure, staffing, and resources. Each has its own community safety challenges.

The data needed to make smart & sensitive decisions in any county may be fragmented across numerous stakeholder systems. Historically, this has made it nearly impossible to gather statistically significant data across counties, and even harder to draw conclusions and effectively share insights.

How do we plan to get this data and make our vision of the future a reality?

We believe that by focusing today on a fairly simple, solvable problem such as increasing the number of people who make it to court and reducing the number of technical violations, we can work with counties to gain the experience and data needed to make larger-scale interventions tomorrow. With that data, we can help counties understand what’s working and what’s not, expand the impact of best practices, and radically reduce the number of people harmed and burdened by the criminal justice system.

Our Values

We believe in justice for all.

We seek to develop an ethic of care.

Within our team and for the people we serve. Between case managers and participants who use our tools. Within the wider communities in which we work. We believe communities will benefit when individuals who come into contact with the justice system are supported in getting help, not simply punished.

We believe in careful technology.

For too long, the design of technology in the criminal justice system has not considered the lives of either the poor or people of color. It has often been used to punish individuals, not improve outcomes. We believe we can do better. We use technological efficiency as an expression of care. We use technology to decrease the burden on our participants and those who support them, building products that augment, guide, and increase the value of human touch.

We believe that systems shape people.

We believe that people are the products of their environments. We believe that criminal justice administrators desire good outcomes but need better tools to achieve them. We believe that many of the issues that participants and supporting case managers face are systemic in nature: solutions must be systemic, as well.

We believe in treating people with respect.

We believe in the transformative power that comes from treating people with dignity and respect. We believe that because each of us are unique, individualized treatment is the only way to improve outcomes.

We follow facts, not fears or fantasies.

We are focused on measuring the outcomes of decisions, services, and programs. We believe that evidence—not fears or fantasies—should guide decision making in the justice system.

We believe in accountability.

Individuals should be held accountable for their actions. Agencies should be held accountable for outcomes. We are accountable as a company. We build technologies to make those accountabilities visible.

We believe innovation should benefit all.

Cutting-edge technology should not be limited to uses that benefit only the affluent, the private sector, or consumers. We seek to bring relevant tools from the consumer space to bear in the civic arena. This is important to us as a reflection of our attitude towards the marginalized as individuals worthy of focus, and of civic, criminal justice systems, as worthy of deep, thoughtful product strategy and service design.

We believe in pragmatism.

We know that our solutions today will be imperfect. But they allow us to help people while moving towards the ideal. Although we are focused on the offender’s experience, we are also building tools for authorities and case managers because we believe in holistic change. The justice process needs sustainable solutions that engage diverse stakeholders even if they have differing mandates.

We do not surveil.

We do not believe that constant surveillance is helpful or necessary for positive outcomes. We do not want to replace a system of incarceration with a system of surveillance. We believe constant location monitoring is unnecessarily punitive and that the data from such systems can be too easily used against participants.

Definitions

Cost↩ Back to content

Incarceration is costly to individuals, families, governments, and communities. While cost estimates vary by geography and calculation methodology, the average annual cost to taxpayers to house one prisoner can exceed the cost of a year’s education at Harvard [Vera Institute of Justice].

The cost to individuals and families impacted by incarceration is more difficult to quantify, but no less significant. Incarceration increases family poverty, destabilizes couple relationships, and negatively impacts household stability and child well-being [Population Reference Bureau]. The impact of unemployment and under-employment associated with incarceration hits family budgets and also diminishes tax revenues [Rockefeller Foundation].