Can cooperatives, based on the values of democracy, equity, and “one person, one vote,” offer sustainable solutions for people navigating reentry in the United States? Collective REMAKE, a hybrid cooperative nonprofit in Los Angeles County, is working to do just that, along with a broad stakeholder network.
Worker-owned businesses and other kinds of cooperatives can ignite a local economy in communities that have been economically disenfranchised and suffer from over-policing and high rates of incarceration. Cooperatives offer a democratic business structure and embedded community, a viable opportunity for individuals who are otherwise discriminated against in the job market because they have a criminal record.
As Thomas Porter-Smith, a board member with lived experience in the California prison system, explains, “Cooperatives offer an accepting environment, where people just getting out can get grounded, build a social network, and at the same time, learn to stand on their own two feet; and they are able to work for the benefit of their loved ones and their community.”