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Kenyatta Leal - Popping the Last Mile

Innovation and disruption are happening in all sectors of business and society. Title searches are being done by bots, bots are applying for jobs, block-chain is improving how we secure things, etc. Now, in what is probably, the most fascinating story of innovation Sandra and I have told on Popping the Bubbl; this episode features, The Last Mile and how the program is using technology to change the way we rehabilitate inmates. Shaka Senghor informs us that all inmates can be rehabilitated, but how?

Kenyatta Laleel was convicted of a 3rd strike felony in the mid-nineties. The new 3 strikes law required the judge to hand Kenyatta a sentence of 25 to life in prison. Kenyatta went away, young, angry and convinced he was a victim of the system.

Over the years, he evolved. He recognized that regardless of his current situation, he had to improve himself. A few key moments in his life lead him to this point.

1. A friend, fed up with Kenyatta’s complaints and lack of accountability, told him to not call until he had dealt with his personal problems.

2. A mentor in prison helped him to re-orient on his personal priorities.

These moments were pivotal for Kenyatta.

He realized, “If I’m the problem, I gotta be the solution too.” This is when Kenyatta started investing in himself, in what he believed in, in his future. Kenyatta began asking for help, participating in the rehabilitative programs at San Quentin. Despite being incarcerated, he became the first person to graduate from college in his family. He accomplished these things despite having no reasonable expectation of a life outside of prison.

Later, Kenyatta met Chris Redlitz. Chris is a fantastically successful VC and entrepreneur. Chris is bold and decided he wanted to start a technology accelerator inside San Quentin! Chris, along with his wife, co-founded The Last Mile. TLM’s mission was to invest in, create and support the business ideas/skills of inmates. The Last Mile was born from this desire to leverage technology skills and innovation to break the cycle of recidivism.

(for more on Chris Redlitz check out Harry Stebbings interview with Chris. Harry’s work is strong and earns our highest recommendation)

With Chris’ mentoring, Kenyatta, while still serving his life sentence, with no foreseeable release date, started building a pitch in anticipation of an upcoming demo day held at San Quentin.

After Kenyatta’s demo, he met with Rocket Space CEO Duncan Logan who had attended the demo day. Kenyatta asked, “If I get outta here tomorrow, would you hire me? And he said, ‘Yes.’”

This inspiring moment, a successful businessman agreeing to hire him, changed Kenyatta’s life—something he never imagined had just occurred. Despite being a 3X convicted felon...Duncan was able to see Kenyatta for the man he now was, and he not only wanted him to succeed, but backed him with a job.

A short while later, Prop 36 passed in California. It afforded guys like Kenyatta to appear in court for a resentencing. In front of the same judge who was forced to sentence Kenyatta 25 to life…Kenyatta’s work to re-orient his life, to take accountability and improve himself was realized, the judge convinced that Kenyatta was rehabilitated reduced his original sentence to 7 years—he was free. FREE.

Duncan honored his commitment and hired Kenyatta at Rocket Space. Kenyatta is a speaker, and also serves on the Board of Directors for The Last Mile. --Reach out to Kenyatta on Twitter @KenyattaLeal

Chris Redlitz ever the entrepreneur, wants TLM to expand nationwide. Going into prisons all over the nation and helping others to rehabilitate, obtain tech sills and get on with living.

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