In December 2018, I joined a team of students whose mission was to build tech solutions to address problems that formerly incarcerated individuals face during the re-entry process. The company, Invicted, started out of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
From Startup Garage to the Lightspeed Summer Fellowship to merging with ideas42, I've conducted ethnographic interviews with formerly incarcerated individuals, defined product road map, and now do part-time UI/UX.
App launching in counties on the West Coast in 2021.
While I usually have to suppress my own prior knowledge, I was truly a beginner when it came to designing for the formerly incarcerated experience.
However, I did need to recompose my understanding of what incarceration entails and implies. To do this, I conducted 10 ethnographic interviews with formerly incarcerated individuals and people involved in criminal justice in Northern California.
"Simple tasks... were my biggest challenges."
"I'm not sure what my case manager is supposed to do."
"I barely know how to [use my phone to] text."
"I wish I could show my daughter how much better I'm doing now for her."
"A complete stranger helped me learn how to use the [Bay Area Rapid Transport]."
"My group uses text because on Facebook we can get back [in trouble] with old friends."
"When things are frustrating, it's easier to just go back to your old life."
"My friend who got out last month picked me up and helped me buy clothes and stuff."
"When I join new programs, I have to bring in folders with the same papers."
I asked formerly incarcerated individuals to discuss their first day, week, and month out of prison and then reflect on pivotal moments of success or failure.
For case managers, I had them describe their role in the process and discuss typical tribulations returning citizens face.
Both sides were surprisingly misaligned. Case managers weren't helping their clients as much as friends, family, or even kind strangers.
Once we identified the gap(s) in re-entry, we brainstormed ways of integrating community into the process. We spent most of our summer 2019 finding product-market fit while participating in the Lightspeed Fellowship. Our guiding questions:
Who should our MVP aim to serve? Case managers or returning citizens?
What form of technology is most accessible for our target user?
How can we make the biggest impact in the quickest timeline?
A brainstorm from the walls of our Lightspeed office. Collab with Sean Konz.
First Iteration, Summer 2019
Before joining forces with Vergil, these are the mockups we used to explain our idea to investors.
In September 2019, we were put in touch with Vergil, a sub-team from ideas42, whose members were working on an app similar to ours.
While my teammate, Sean, continued working with Vergil throughout the school year, I took a step back to finish my varsity softball career.
However, when COVID-19 shut down both athletics and campus life, I had more time on my hands. In March 2020, I joined Vergil as a part-time product designer refining their UX and visual design.
While this is our first iteration, our North Star is to incorporate friends, family, and community into the re-entry process.
After months of work, we're excited that Vergil will be launching in two counties on the West Coast in 2021!
Until then, I'll be putting some extra attention into the calendar and service exploration features while also addressing edge cases for our existing features.
Following launch, I'm excited to see how we can bring in community and care to change the stigmas and narrative of re-entry.