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Launch HN: Promise (YC W18) – Cost-effective, more humane alternative to jail
912 points by dfrappier on Mar 20, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 410 comments
Hi HN,

We are Phaedra and Diana of Promise (http://joinpromise.com/). We provide a cost-effective, more humane alternative to incarceration.

We work for government agencies to monitor and support individuals who would otherwise be in jail or who are under some form of community supervision.

There are almost 2.3 million people behind bars in the US and another 4.5+ million people on probation or parole. Almost 450,000 people are in jails pretrial, meaning they have not been convicted of the crime for which they were arrested. The majority of these individuals remain in custody because they cannot afford to pay for their release. This is costly for governments and devastating for the individuals who remain in jail who can lose their job, housing, children and more while incarcerated. Believe it or not, many of these people never even end up being charged with or convicted of a crime.

Phaedra had a background in politics (she ran the South Bay Labor Council) and Diana had a background in law (as a criminal defense attorney and co-founder of the Ella Baker Center). We then worked together at a non-profit (Green For All), in the music industry (for the musician Prince) and in technology (at Honor). We decided to start Promise because we saw a huge need for innovation in the criminal justice system and wanted to use what we had learned in tech to build something that actually helps change lives for the better and can scale.

Here's how Promise works: We work in partnership with governments who release people from jail on condition that they work with Promise as an alternative to being in custody. We also provide support to people under community supervision. We use an intake assessment to create an individualized plan that is based on the risks and needs of each participant. We provide each participant with an app and a wearable tracking device (only when required). Our goal is to always use the least restrictive means necessary and to use a step-up, step-down approach: that is, we reduce restrictions when possible and increase only when needed. While there are still restrictions on freedom, participants will no longer be in custody so that they can return to their jobs, families, and communities until their case is resolved or they no longer have any required supervision.

We then monitor and support participants to help them succeed with their plans. We provide an intelligent calendar of their obligations (court appearances, drug testing, substance abuse treatment, etc.) and adaptive reminders to help them meet these obligations. Research and experience have shown that simple intervention like this does work: for example, it makes people more likely to get to court. We also provide referrals and support so participants can receive services that may help (job training/placement, housing, counseling, etc.). We provide reports to courts or other involved parties as needed. We also allow the participants to easily view their upcoming obligations, overall plan and progress on their plan.

We believe this approach can support participants' needs, keep communities safer, and provide a cost-effective and more humane alternative to incarceration in the US. Our business model is simple: we charge governments a fee. Incarceration is so expensive that we can make a profit and still save governments—and ultimately tax payers—money.

We would love to get feedback on Promise and in particular to hear about your ideas and experiences in this area, whether working in government agencies, selling to such agencies or as individuals who have been impacted by this system. There is a huge amount of work to be done here!

Thank you!!




I've been to at least 10 different county jails and to Florida State Prison twice, and I feel like I know already what you're biggest problem is going to be...

It's going to be the one(s) that screw it all up for the many.

All it's going to take is one criminal in your program to go out and kill and rob an elderly couple for society to force the politicians to end your noble and well-meaning experiment and put those people back behind bars.

I've seen it over and over in my many years of being locked up...programs designed to give inmates and convicts a shot at bettering themselves are totally abused by a few totally selfish and uncaring dickwads that actually enjoy the fact they just fucked it up for everyone else.

But regardless of that, I think your program holds great promise and wish you nothing but success with it.


Yep; for experiments like this to work you need a judicial system with a level of pragmatism that doesn't exist in the US; that is, to give some very high value to the ability of the non-repeated offenders to go back to e.g. support their children economically or go to college, etc; so any outliers who do go back to crime are seen as outliers and the work is done towards spotting those criminals earlier in the experiment rather than closing the experiment all together. But like I said is a level of cool-headedness uncommon in the US judicial system and in general a country where many politicians win elections through emotional manipulation.


Or not necessarily pragmatism, but a shift in focus from overbearing justice (commonly seen as retribution and punishment, or more generally some kind of revenge) to rehabilitation and giving people the resources they need to get out of crime, rather than ostracizing them or putting them to manual labour for pennies an hour. In this sense Promise is being pragmatic because it can't transform the American attitude to crime all by itself (the punishment of which doubles up as a profit motive for the prison industry), but it can attempt to make one aspect of it less shitty. However, it is miles away from ideal.

Coming from a European perspective I find it utterly perplexing that a society would not only accept high rates of incarceration but also support venture capital to optimize that status quo. Because that's what is being offered - making it affordable for poor people to go into custody, as opposed to lobbying against private prisons and extreme sentences for trivial crimes, and disentangling this horrific 'tough on crime' narrative that has taken hold over the past decades. How on earth is it positive to see an opportunity for profit in all the people being locked up before trial and to what end will that investment be pursued?

It's fascinating that many viewpoints from the US are so exceptional in their notion that they completely ignore how systems in other countries tackle the problem without generating a criminal underclass.


I'm a US citizen and was about to part exactly this ... we need fewer people in jail period. That probably applies to most if not all of those who Promise would help so I can't help thinking this is simply putting lipstick on a pig.

EDIT: I should also note that it's nice to see teams are trying tackling to tackle harder social problems.


> we need fewer people in jail period

What does that mean? How do you know we have too many? Are you claiming we have many innocent people who haven't broken the law in jail? Or that some laws prescribe incommensurate penalties for certain crimes?


> How do you know we have too many?

The US leads the world in incarceration, with a rate of 737 per 100,000.

Canada has 438 per 100,000... and on virtual all measures Canada and the US are very similar (old joke... What is a Canadian? An unarmed American with healthcare).

Amazingly the UK is 148 per 100,000, Scotland 134, N.Ireland 79, Ireland 78, and Australia 168.


What are the rates of crimes committed per 100k population in the US and the countries you mentioned? Obviously that's a loaded question, but just trying to illustrate the point -- perhaps the US criminal justice system is just as good (or possibly even better) at investigating, arresting, and jailing those who commit "crimes"?

Is the problem really with the criminal justice system, or is it with the laws, perhaps even just the sentencing laws?

FWIW I am firmly against, disgusted by, the extremely elevated incarceration rates in the US -- especially those incarcerated for "non-violent crimes" -- but I tend to think that the issue is more with the laws (sentencing, plea-bargaining, due process, etc) than it is with the prosecutors themselves.

Of course there are bad apples too, from judges to prosecutors to defendants themselves, but I tend to see more issue with the disconnected legislation than I do anything else.

Heck, the US AG wants to crack down on marijuana -- despite numerous state ballot initiatives legalizing it at state levels. Meanwhile, there's a serious opioid epidemic which is killing thousands of people; 'crackdown' is failing to address that problem. I know, let's crack down on marijuana too -- throw them all in jail, that's the way to save lives. It just blatantly defies logic or basic reasoning. :(


> perhaps the US criminal justice system is just as good at investigating, arresting, and jailing those who commit "crimes"?

Having worked with statistics around this issue and compared them with many other countries, I don't think this is the case. The USA seems to have two problems: A very, unusual high crime rate (about 10 times higher than in the country where I live for example!) and by comparison, a very harsh jurisdictional system. Combined, you get the result you have.


Is the problem really with the criminal justice system, or is it with the laws, perhaps even just the sentencing laws?

It's definitely not an either/or thing. You can bring up some bad laws, I can bring up some bad features of the criminal justice system, and we can go on forever. There are issues with both. Consider the bail system, where many poor folk who are simply accused of a crime are left to rot in prison because they can't come up with the cash. While they are in jail, they can't work. While they can't work, they can't pay bills. If they can't pay bills, their car gets repossessed. Even if this person walks free, they can't get to work without a car, and the cycle will probably happen again. Eventually, an overworked public defender will not be able to help.

There are other factors as well. Consider the for-profit prisons and the politicians who are lobbied to implement them.


America is a crazy country in some very obvious ways, one of them being your view of criminals in general. Everything from militarized police with military hardware , corrupted, racist cops, the war against teens doing some minor pot smoking, and the prison system being a massive industry.... Its just nuts. Compare to any other modern country. It's off the charts, the craziness.


25% of the world's prison population is in the US. For a country that has around 5% of the world's population, that is a staggering amount


Perhaps it has something to do with the individualistic culture that that exists in the US leads to people making risky decisions for personal benefit?


> commonly seen as retribution and punishment, or more generally some kind of revenge

Role of the incarceration is 1) incapacitation, at a bare minimum prevent continuing criminal activity; 2) Rehabilitation, in so far as causes and proclivities toward criminal activity can be remediated, do so; 3) Punishment, enjoying the rewards of criminality offend our sense of fairness.

The problem is (3) seems to be the only one we're capable of...


4) deterrent, to make you think twice before committing a criminal act.

The urge for long prison sentences can be explained by reasons 1, 2 and 4.

And I guess reason 3 as well; the longer someone is incarcerated, the longer they will have to think about what they did wrong and how to fix their life.

note: I don't believe that longer sentences are effective for any of those reasons, but others do


> commonly seen as retribution and punishment, or more generally some kind of revenge

That's not the purpose of the justice system per se, though I don't see any problem with someone offering criminals, in the spirit of charity, opportunities and help in turning away from criminality toward good ways of living. (Obviously, they must be willing, and we shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking criminals are victims.) However, justice implies that retribution and punishment are merited, and if merited, then legitimately inflicted. If it didn't, mercy and forgiveness would be meaningless. Indeed, crime and evil actions would cease to have any substance. A justice system that does not punish in a manner that is commensurate with crimes committed is no justice system at all. The word "retribution" for some reason offends modern sensibilities. Part of that stems from what appears to be the false belief that retribution entails hatred, which it does not.

If there are flaws in the justice system because either the punishments for some crimes are excessive, or innocent people are being convicted at high rates and possibly because of perverse incentives, or whatever, then those things need to be addressed. But I do not support a generally lenient attitude toward crime in the spirit of Norway's treatment of Breivik. That that unrepentant criminal is alive and in relative comfort is a sickening insult to his victims.


I think this depends very much on what you consider the intention of a justice system to be. If it is to strive towards balance between individuals, then you are correct. If a person causes suffering, then they should experience suffering themselves. Balance attained.

However, if the intention of a justice system is to reduce the total amount of injustice done in the world, then punishment is surprisingly ineffective.

Being a criminal does not _preclude_ a person from also being a victim. People who inflict violence have very, very often experienced a great deal of violence against themselves. In these cases, punishment is going to do far more harm than good in society. Harsh punishment, especially incarceration, makes pre-existing issues much worse. It creates recidivism, and increases the total amount of injustice over the long term. Compassion, support, empathy, education, and carefully guided opportunity to improve would, in many of these cases, improve that person's circumstance to a point where they no longer have cause to harm others. The original victims may not have received the recompense that they deserve, but the likelihood of more people experiencing pain at the criminal's hand in the future is reduced.

So it's not quite as simple as all one way or all the other. I think that is why the raw concept of 'retribution' is a less desirable idea these days than it has been in the past. It makes the demands of individual balance at the expense of community balance.

Don't get me wrong, I think that ignoring individual balance outright in favour of community balance is equally flawed. The trick is providing lots of options, so that someone like a judge can make the call as to where that balancing point should be and be confident that it is played out.


> If a person causes suffering, then they should experience suffering themselves. Balance attained. > However, if the intention of a justice system is to reduce the total amount of injustice done in the world, then punishment is surprisingly ineffective.

This.

Retribution is a terrible way to run things. "The law is reason free from passion."

https://theamericanscholar.org/death-by-treacle/

"One of the first victim impact statements made outside a civil courtroom was that of the mother of actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered in 1969 by Charles Manson and his family. At the time of Manson’s 1978 parole hearing in California no state specifically allowed victim statements in criminal cases—those brought by government and “We the People.” Today, however, they are a routine part of the sentencing and parole process in every state. According to advocates, they allow victims to personalize the crime and elevate the status of the victim by describing the effect the crime has had on them or their families. Some laud the courtroom ritual as an aid in the emotional recovery of the victim, with the criminal proceeding envisioned as part of a larger therapeutic process. A few legal scholars suggest that the well-intentioned personalization of a crime can blur the line between public justice and private retribution. Conversely, does a criminal deserve a more lenient sentence if his victim was someone of so little charm or social worth that he had no one to testify movingly for him? Of course, rape charges used to be mitigated on just such grounds, that the victim had so little virtue or sexual morals that the crime against her didn’t mean as much."


Retribution is a strongly rational choice for a society aiming to minimize the total amount of injustice, since it interferes with the incentives structure of those perpetrating injustices. The majority of criminals make an intentional choice and know they are harming others, they are not irrational victims of circumstance or of their upbringing.

So, to the extent that the justice sistem can identify truly antisocial crime (and not ridiculous offenses like 5y mandatory minimums for weed), making the criminals suffer sets a strong social example: if you perpetrate this particularly heinous crime, you will a pay a price so high that it will not be worth it.

And since, by definition, only a fraction of criminals will be caught, those that are caught must suffer extra to asymptotically balance the risk/reward ratio - if I get caught stealing I don't just compensate the victim for the stolen good, thereby "paying my dues", that will just motivate me to get better at stealing. Rather, the penalty should completely obliterate any gains I could hope to make in a successful thieving career, and then some, to dissuade me to go down that path in the first place.

Rehabilitation is an important concern, but it's only secondary to the primary goal of the justice system, making crime not worthwhile. If all I get for running over people while drunk is an obligation to go to AA meetings, then the drunk driving law becomes irrelevant, you might as well leave it to the individual conscience.


> the spirit of Norway's treatment of Breivik

I believe you can safely entrust the evaluation of the Breivik case to the Norwegians, who - judicially - came through the thing with absolutely flying colors as a civilized and rational society, not as a religiously infused flashmob baying for blood.


Perhaps it’s sort of an incremental vs revolutionary change kind of situation.


That level of judgment is actively discouraged and labeled "profiling".


... As opposed to all those other countries where politicians don’t manipulate emotions to win elections! ;-)


I'm my opinion Trump won _only_ through emotional manipulation (remember "croocked hillary"?); in many other nations (e.g. Germany) its usually a bit of rational arguments and a bit of emotional manipulation, not only the later.


I doubt this program would be offered to those being charged with violent and serious crimes, cases where you're held without bail.


We are starting with non violent offenders, who make up 2/3 of the jail population.


If it helps, I think the best phrase I ever heard on jail overcrowding comes from a politician in Kentucky who said (and I'm paraphrasing):

"We need to figure out who we're afraid of and who we're angry at."

I wish you guys all the best.


This is not the first time I've seen this ratio but it still blows my mind. It's, of course, unsurprising given that although it's a huge waste of tax payer resources they're a handful of ppl that actually profit lavishly from having this many ppl, who pose no physical threat to society, locked up.

I bet that these ppl will be your biggest obstacles. You should operate with the expectation that they will do everything in their power to protect their intrest. "Saving taxpayers money" literally means "removing it from their bottom line".

That said, I wish you much success! I wish more startups figured out creative ways to align their business models with the real issues affecting society.


You're not counting state prisons, violent offenders are nearly half of the total US prison population.

Why would I have faith in your start up if you can't even get this right?


jail != prison


There is a chart here that is helpful in understanding the total number of people who are impacted by different parts of the criminal justice system. Approx 70% of people in local jails are there for non-violent offenses, approx 45% of people in state prisons are there for non-violent offenses and approximately 94% of people in the federal system are there for non-violent offenses. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2018.html


Wait, what?


In the US, jails and prisons are two different things. Prisons are state and federal facilities for criminals convicted of serious crimes with sentences of more than a year. Jails are local facilities for suspects waiting for trial, and those convicted of minor crimes with sentences less than a year.


Another big difference between jail and prison is that a prison sentence must be served as a single, unbroken stay. A jail sentence in many places can be served weekends.


In Germany we have similar programs.

No one is talking about to stop them...


Can this be addressed by having clear metrics available early and often on the clients?


I totally agree with you! Not necessarily on the clients, but in general, it would be really interesting, and even important.

This would show that the hypothetical "one that killed an ederly couple" is one member out of the, say, 250k members that are in this program.

By having public numbers, it would show the benefits vs problems and provide a more empathic view on it.


> I've been to at least 10 different county jails and to Florida State Prison twice

How exactly did you manage that?


Among other possibilities, they might work in the criminal justice system. I guess it's possible they might have been incarcerated in all of those places, but that doesn't seem as likely to me :)


It says right there in the post that they've been locked up.


you're right - I missed that in the middle of the comment.


That level of recidivism is most commonly associated with drug offenses, either as a user or a dealer, or both.

Edit I’m not judging them, just pointing out the most likely cause of being incarcerated so frequently in the USA.


Simple Guess: Laywer, LEO?


Thank you!


I think I might have a unpopular perspective but when I was incarcerated for 2 years 11 days it gave me a chance to get away from drugs for that period. Although the environment hardly supported addiction recovery, the high cost and irregular supply made drug use unsustainable. If I had made parole and gotten out after a year, I would have been right back into hard drugs. Allow me to add that I had a pretty much uninterrupted 30 or so year addiction to opiates.


Wow, I never thought about prisons as commitment devices for drug addicts. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Despite the usefulness of prison in your case, there is plenty of research showing that alternative means to incarceration are better for everybody (for the offenders and the taxpayers). For example, this paper shows a drop of 40% in recidivism for electronic monitoring instead of incarceration: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15602. Also, there is a lot of evidence from drug courts. This is one example: https://crimesolutions.gov/ProgramDetails.aspx?ID=70.

I am not affiliated with Promise.


Good comment. I was going to say that while prison might work for some with addictions, it certainly does not teach them anything about staying away from drugs. In many cases recidivism is high because these people who remained sober for the duration of their sentence get out and fall right back into it within a few months. They might have trouble finding jobs due to a record, or maybe they were incarcerated long enough that they lost old, good connections or have bad ones they made while incarcerated. It might just be a matter of time until they fall back into usage as an escape mechanism.

There's just very many ways that going to prison hurts a person and very few ways that helps, and only for the right kind of people too (ex: longterm drug abuser with a lack of self control relinquishing his rights in this case).


My assumption is that Promise isn't intended for every case. Some people will still go to jail.

Also, there are other ways to break a cycle of addiction. Prison isn't the only way, nor even a particularly recommended way.

I'm glad you got free of your addiction. Religious types might chalk this up to "the good lord moves in mysterious ways."

But I don't see any reason why your story should be viewed as an argument against their work.


I was fortunate enough to get into rehab after only two stints in jail, and have remained sober from heroin and cocaine for 10+ years. However during the time in jail for crimes related to my addiction the only thing on my mind the entire stay was, "can't wait to get out of here and get that first dose again".

It is especially hard to think about bettering yourself and getting help when you're around countless other people basically glorifying the problem from which you suffer.


>However during the time in jail for crimes related to my addiction the only thing on my mind the entire stay was, "can't wait to get out of here and get that first dose again".

Speaking to someone who had recently been released, he talked about people shooting up in the car two minutes after being released. Friends and sometimes even family members would be there to meet them at their release and would bring along drugs for them to consume at the first possible instant as some kind of "welcome back" present.


If you had been given the choice between 2-years of government enforced rehab or 1 year of jail, what would the old you have chosen?


Well I imagine with this in place, you would get drug tested regularly, and if you fail those tests eventually you would actually go to jail since you would not be respecting what you need to do?


Failing a test, or more accurately the fear of failing a test, and being cut off from a supply are separate concepts.


That's why I mention sending them to jail if the test is failed. Society gave them a chance and they failed - now they go through the usual process.


Wait, you believe going to jail is the usual process for addiction recovery?


No? Someone just mentioned it was an upside when going to jail that would be lost if people don't go to jail.


Makes perfect sense, but this project aims to profit.

The obvious centuries-old solution of government-managed prisons is useless for that.


There is plenty of evidence showing that alternatives to imprisonment reduce recidivism and are cheaper. Government-managed or not.


I'm intrigued and inspired by what you are trying to do!

Looking into the future, I have a worry that governments will be able to back Promise into a corner. When many participants are dependent on Promise for their freedom from jail, won't governments be in a position to dictate Promise's feature set? I fear that governments will demand ever more intrusive monitoring and draconian control over participants' lives, and Promise will be unable to say no, as the alternative would put them all back in jail.

In other words, the bargain of surveillance instead of jail time may start out being a big win, but it seems at risk of getting worse over time with pressure only in one direction (towards ever-increasing surveillance and control) and no countervailing pressure in the other direction. Does Promise have ways to generate that countervailing pressure? Does it have guiding principles as to what kinds of surveillance and control it considers ethical? Does it have bright lines that it will not cross? Have you thought about how Promise can gain or wield the political power it needs to stay true to its principles?

Thanks.


This is a tough question. I have been a criminal defense attorney and was the co-founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights that has worked hard to bring change to the criminal justice system-initially for juveniles but now for adults as well. We understand the concerns and there is no magic answer but we come from a place of wanting to get people out of jail and keeping them out. That is our goal and that is what we will work towards. As we said, we will go for the least restrictive means possible, but if the court requires an ankle monitor for them to get out of jail, we will provide that. If we don't, companies who care nothing about the individuals being incarcerated will continue to get these contracts.


I'm curious, what prevents your company from becoming one of those companies that care nothing about the individuals being incarcerated? Like, imagine if your growth peters out, your board of directors or your investors pressure you into selling, and one of those companies ends up acquiring you. Is there something about your company structure that would prevent this?


It could be incorporated as a not-for-profit. And I have heard that there is a 3rd kind of incorporation somewhere between purely-for-greed and not-for-profit, where some profit is expected, but is not the only reason for the organization. Look for "public benefit corporation".


You're not wrong, but there are absolutely massive amounts of government intrusion and surveillance that I personally would accept as an alternative to rotting in jail.


The choice isn't just between rotting in jail and something like Promise, though. Many of us on this forum could pay bail and face neither. That's the fundamental injustice here, I think.


Are you saying the injustice is that some people can afford to bail out and some cannot? Or is the injustice that the bail concept exists in the first place?

If the former, then what are we going to do about it? Enforced income equality programs have been quite disastrous in human history. If the latter, well, yes, it's a weird way to get around the fact that the state technically cannot be locking people up that aren't convicted of a crime yet. And for the poor, it very well may be that the choice is between jail and something like Promise.


We are pragmatic founders. We spent most of our professional like advocating for these changes and realized we wanted a more immediate solution. We are also worried that the absence of bail can actually lead to more incarceration. Kentucky got rid of private bail but the system is still fundamentally unjust.


Yes. It is why the app does not do continuous GPS monitoring and does not store days of GPS data.


Okay, so this is a statement of what Promise does not do today. Will it never do these things?

What are the lines you will not cross?

Have you seen https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/new-frontier-e-carcera..., and would you be willing to commit to the recommended guidelines at http://centerformediajustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/...?


But, no to staying in jail as a choice. I share the concern about storing data.


Notice they only answer lighthearted/positive inquiries that aren’t too inquisitive.

The issue with privatization is that a public relations person can tell you one thing today, they can do another thing tomorrow, and all that matters is turning a profit.

These are not stupid questions but you’re still wasting your time asking them. If you want trustworthy answers, your only option is to deprivatize and elect officials based on honesty and merit.


I spent 13 years of my life electing candidates. We just disagree. We wanted an alternative and solutions.

gt_ on Mar 21, 2018 [flagged]

"Just disagree" is unconvincing and you'll need to be seeking a profit if you want accepted to YC.


This is not true. They've been funding nonprofits for at least 4 years. And the (YC W18) indicates that they're already in YC.


There's seeking profit (which every sustainable venture should do -- even nonprofits) and only seeking profit at the detriment to the people they serve. The current set of companies in corrective justice are in the latter category -- any effort to be in the former is welcomed in my book. As someone who worked on Global Tel Link as part of the my former employer's portfolio, I can tell you that the intentions of private companies currently serving the corrections departments are far far worse.


Depending on how an organization is constructed, profit is not always "all that matters".

Public Benefit Corporations, as well as Nonprofit Corporation, are possible, and will provide some assurance that the company doesnt turn evil tomorrow.


I want this to be successful more than any other startup I've seen in recent history. Our reform system is so outdated and broken.

Do you have a plan for how to help addicts and people with mental illness? Or is that outside your scope?


Thank you so much! We will not be providing direct treatment services to participants. Our goal is to find the best each county we work in has to offer and to refer people to the best programs we can find.


Do you have any stance on quasi-religious treatment programs with suspect outcomes like Alcoholics Anonymous, or the Scientology front Narcanon?


force drug addicts to get on Naloxone for lower recidivism rates and better outcomes.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/inmates-heroin_us_56966...


Suboxone is the one you are thinking of. Naloxone is used to reverse the effects of an OD. Unless they are functionally similar and I am misinformed.


Naloxone is used to curb drug cravings as it blocks opiod receptors so you can't get high when you take it and thus weaken the reward pathway circuit in your brain's reward system. This has been studied in prison systems to lead to less repeat offenders for drug related offences (dui) when given naloxone in prison. I wish I could find the study.


Suboxone usually contains some Naloxone.


the article talks about treatment with Vivitrol which is similar to suboxone, except it can't be abused (and therefore has no street value) and is a monthly injection instead of a daily.

Naloxone/Narcan is for immediate treatment of an overdose


unfortunately we don't have a reform system, but a punishment system as if the suffering of the offender is important


It's not just the suffering of the offender, but the idea that justice to the offending party can only happen if the offender suffers like the offending party suffered. It's "An eye for an eye", just a few layers of abstraction over it.


Exactly. :)


It sounds like this is a for-profit business. I'm very leery of the trend towards private prisons. Was a non-profit considered here?

Are participants required to have a smartphone to install the app to be a part of the release program?


We spent most of our professional lives in non profits and the last 6 years in for profit. We believe the business will better serve people with the structure for many reasons, such as hiring, not having to deal with foundations or individual donors, etc. We believe good people can run and create good companies.


First it is great you are tackling a real social issue.

If it works it looks like it could have a positive impact. How ever I have a few concerns/questions

1. How will the incentives be aligned? More people standing trial = larger potential market.

2. This is a false dichotomy. “Not having to deal with foundations”

There are other models that do not require you to take donor funding. Take a look at the model by Muhammad Yunus[0] or writing by Porter on shared value [1]. For e.g one could generate cash flow for expenses without having investors looking for a return.

3. While a profit motive can be useful to encourage innovation and competitiveness, this can have negative consequences. For e.g in this case what is good for business is not necessarily good for society.(more suspects)

4. Would you consider this a fundamental solution?

5. What outcome are you after?

6. Is there a way to prevent people even Being suspected of a crime? Preventing them committing a crime?

7. Using leverage points from Donella Meadows [2] Where does this fall?

8. Have you looked at systems theory? Very useful for really complex social challenges like the one you are trying to tackle acumen has a free course. [3].

8. Is this solution a short term one with a more long term(fundamental) plan for the future?

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grameen_Bank

[1] https://hbr.org/2011/01/the-big-idea-creating-shared-value

[2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_leverage_points

[3] https://www.plusacumen.org/courses/systems-practice


That was the first thing that I thought as well. This is another program like private prisons.

I have a hard time seeing how you can align the incentives of a business like this with greater societal interests.


There is such a thing as for profit for good. Perhaps they believe they can be both better and cheaper than prisons at the same time. That allows them to provide a compelling pitch to governments and convince them to direct funds to Promise instead of prisons. The government wins because it's cheaper, their users win because they are not incarcerated, and they win because they have cash flow. These types of businesses are not impossible to create.


> There is such a thing as for profit for good.

Their association with Y Combinator doesn't help with that impression. How many other venture funded start ups exist to provide a societal benefit while making only a modest return? Isn't the goal a big exit?

They might not be venture funded yet, but they aren't at Y Combinator for the coffee, right? I know this sounds super cynical, so please tell me why I'm wrong. Why is this a good thing?


> How many other venture funded start ups exist to provide a societal benefit while making only a modest return?

YC has a non-profits program. https://www.ycombinator.com/nonprofits/

I don't see any indication that Promise is going non-profit, though.


Who says anything about a modest return? How much does the U.S. spend on prisons? How much does the world spend on prisons? Say they operate at a 30% discount, how much revenue is that? Off the top of my head, a lot.


>These types of businesses are not impossible to create.

This is amazingly uninformed. Let’s stop pretending private businesses were born yesterday and just consult history. Privatization of human rights is despicable and this is not a lesson that needs to be learned again. Do you know why we never had private prisons before? They incentivize corruption of the most vulnerable fabric of our society. No excuse.


I agree that for-profit prisons are not good for society. But does this one (granted, massive) mistake mean that we can no longer try to innovate in this space? Does it mean that the only model is publicly funded rehabilitation? That's obviously not worked either.


Exactly. I think there's a lot of things to consider around it all, for-profit prisons have a LOT of problems. But if we found that microwaving food for prisoners saved a lot of time cooking and thus also the amount of time we had to pay for people to cook for prisons that would be a good thing...at least it would be if that money gets funneled back to the point that a taxpayer is paying less. As it is I assume it just goes into the pocket of whoever runs the for-profit prison.


> does this one (granted, massive) mistake mean that we can no longer try to innovate in this space?

No, but we should learn from those mistakes, right?

When a company makes money from prisoners and more prisoners mean more money, then the incentives are a problem.


> Do you know why we never had private prisons before?

You mean, before 1852?


A profit motive can lead to perverse and unforeseen incentives, even despite the best intentions of the founders, who someday will not be running the company.

The private prison industry routinely lobbies for higher fines & longer sentences because it is to their benefit to have more people go to prison. Promise appears to have a similar incentive.


This aims to be much closer: http://benefitcorp.net/faq. Companies with the ability to operate for-profit, but without the obligation for maximizing shareholder profit.


That said, I'm hoping they can. I too am skeptical that a for-profit model can work here, but as long as the incentives are appropriately aligned (they profit when incarceration rates drop and recidivism rates decline), there's a possibility it can work.


It'll almost certainly be a fee for service model.

(municipalities simply won't write contracts with big rewards tied to incarceration or recidivism rates)


Would it be more ethical to only profit based on recidivism?

Eg, Promise is only paid if the prisoner doesn't go back to prison?


We love this! Right now the incentives are wrong. Contractors are paid per person, per day, which creates the wrong incentives.


Consider a business model based on per day an individual did not recidivate, pro-rated by a prediction model for initial likelihood of recidivism, and severity of crime.

This would perhaps ascribe a number for level of difficulty, and an initial estimate for how hard the case is.

Keep in mind that a convicted offender on the streets may suffer from a potential for revenge and retaliation, and thus is possibly safer in jail, however horrible jail may be. This would augment a recidivism predictor further, if you cannot isolate them from their victims, should victims be bitter about the perception of your service lacking punitive action.


Well, it wouldn't be recidivism, but rather if the accused committed another crime prior to their trial date. Or, if they missed their trial date.

It's easy to keep getting confused around if we're dealing with accused criminals or convicted felons, as both are in jail. Sounds like Promise is focusing on the accused.


Want to sell bonds that mature when the group of monitored individuals is NOT incarcerated? I’m asking about the payment logistics... it’s a boring but important($$$) part.


Not necessarily. That gives them a financial incentive to send people their algorithms deem "iffy" to jail instead of accepting them into the program.


The read I have is that they are aiming downstream of the detention decision, providing services related to probation and parole.

I wouldn't be real surprised if their initial targets are places that have large, established probation systems, offering the tech as an aid to government employed probation officers. Easier than taking on legal responsibility for the probationers.


Yes this would be a very interesting and ethical incentive model to explore.


For anyone wondering, this is definitely sarcasm.


To me this looks like a for-profit parole system. It's essentially the same thing as various state and county level governments' parole systems are already intended to do, but implemented by a private contractor. Much the same way that private prisons accomplish the same function as state-owned prisons.

If you were recruiting new staff positions for this startup I don't see how the job functions for the persons interacting with the "clients" are much different from a parole officer. Just with more "web 2.0" technology, IoT tech for ankle tracking bracelets, etc.


We agree on general concern about for profit prisons. Diana and I met working at a non profit. She founded the Ella Baker Center and I worked in the labor movement. However, we created a company with those values because we believed this put us in the best position to scale the solutions we believed in.


> However, we created a company with those values because we believed this put us in the best position to scale the solutions we believed in.

You could just have created a non-profit and reinvest all money - way easier to scale. Values mean shit to the shareholders who invested in you :) They care about returns. I can only image what kind of monsters are born when blindly hunting for profit. Actually, I don't have to imagine, I just need to look at the current for-profit rehabilitation industry. Not saying you're the same, you're probably not but you will at some point yield decision power to the for-profit interest of the company. And let's assume this picks up and becomes immensely successful. What's stopping the company from hiring lobbyists to support legislation which keeps people 'in the system'?


Addressing some concerns here (which I don't think will go away as you become more successful), consider registering as a Public Benefit Corporation or at least announcing that that is in your game plan.

Ref: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public-benefit_corporation

For background:

A Public Benefit Corporation makes it explicit legally for corporations to act morally, ethically and responsibly in regard to society, the environment, the natural world and the world at large.

The Certificate of Incorporation must list the company's altruistic goals and overall mission statement. However, in every other manner, the structure of a Public Benefit Corporation can mirror the structure of any type of Corporation.


This is a pretty weak line of reasoning IMHO. There are plenty of non-profit organizations which scale very large and address large societal problems. For instance, most hospitals.

Why couldn't the same thing be done to solve this problem, especially given your concern for eliminating perverse incentives in the justice system?


Are you offering hospitals as a good or as a bad example?


What is your general concern about for-profit prisons?


It sounds to me like this is for profit on purpose. That's not a terrible thing: it's not a prison...

The smartphone question is important. I wonder if an inexpensive device custom built can replace it.


> That's not a terrible thing: it's not a prison...

I think that's splitting a lot of hairs. If working with Promise is a condition of release, it's possible (and likely) that Promise now has the power to send you to prison if they deem you non-compliant with your release terms.

We have pretty clear examples of how for-profit criminal justice can go wrong: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kids_for_cash_scandal


To date, 90 percent of the population we are working with in our current counties have smart phones.


>It sounds like this is a for-profit business. I'm very leery of the trend towards private prisons.

(I completely agree, and sare the same concerns - Especially given the precedent of US incarceration and private entity involvement, which many would consider slavery. However...)

On a long term scale, I believe that Capitalism will become more trustworthy and aligned with demand than government.

Or at the very least, Capitalism will 'pave the road', and hand off to a socialist system upon maturity and consensus.

While the free market is (in its pure form) money driven (ignoring externalities), we appear to be in a new age of enlightenment. I believe that this is bringing about a new form of capitalism which provides a platform for ethics.

In essence, this boils down to "Government is too slow to legislate and bring about change, and doesn't accurately reflect views. The people are tired of waiting and not being listened to, and will turn to the free market for the supply they want".

If Promise and other companies are able to hold themselves accountable to their customers, governing bodies (eventually), but most importantly the population at large (contributing in a meritocratic way), I can see this a) working very well, b) far more quickly than any other system, and c) innovating and maturing components ready for adoption by government.

The alternative could be waiting 50 years or an entire lifetime to get the change people want. Plan B to me would be governments launching online platforms for democratic (and later, technocratic/meritocratic) referendum systems on a local/small level, then with trust delegating decisions more and more to citizens.

Hard to justify all the above succinctly, so I presume this will not be convincing to all. Would love to hear Promise's opinions on this.


This is a great point -- it should be required to be at least not-for-profit, if not non-profit.


I'm conflicted about this for a few different reasons:

(1) I am always concerned about start ups with hugely impactful products that seem to lack rigor around their technology. This one will be part of determining who gets what care or who gets sent to jail. Where's the evidence that Promise will make this decision better?

(2) It seems like streamlining and increasing the ability of governments to monitor parolees. Is a warrant going to be automatically issued to someone breaking curfew because they're visiting their sick mother?

(3) It lowers the barrier into the criminal justice system. Promise says they are designed to help the criminal which makes it more attractive for judges to place people, especially juveniles, into the system.

It seems like the founders want to make a positive impact on society, but there's a whole lot of slippery slope and other ethical issues here.


(1) We believe scale will be critical. Also, qualitative and quantitative analysis. I do not think this can be solved only through technology. (2) Parolees are post conviction. We are focused on people who are incarcerated pre trial because they cannot afford bail. (3) This is not what we said but really helpful to understand that is how it reads. We will need to think about it. Fundamentally, we are trying to make the system more just. People who can afford bail can get out, only people with less money usually stay incarcerated when they are bail eligible.


> (1) We believe scale will be critical. Also, qualitative and quantitative analysis. I do not think this can be solved only through technology.

This is the cavalier attitude that concerns me. If we are talking about predicting what wines people like than saying we believe scale will be critical is fine. When talking about something that will have a major impact on the lives of unwilling participants, you'd like to see at least some rigor.

> (2) Parolees are post conviction. We are focused on people who are incarcerated pre trial because they cannot afford bail.

People being Parolees or on bail doesn't make a difference to my point.

> (3) This is not what we said but really helpful to understand that is how it reads.

You don't think the care plan Promise creates will have a positive impact on those that go through the program?


Can you elaborate on what additional rigor you would like to see, or in what way you think this is cavalier?

The parent said that qualitative and quantitative analysis will be used, and that technology is not the only solution. That is hardly cavalier imo.


What I found specifically cavalier was the statement that they "believe scale will be critical". That sounds like every ML/data driven start up that doesn't have enough data to actually make accurate models. There's a lot of fake it til you make it in startups like these.

What rigor would look like to me is something like:

(1) Do a historical analysis of who skips court and why.

(2) Come up with a plausible intervention strategy to solve problems identified in (1)

(3) Test your strategy in a well designed pilot and calculate it's effectiveness

(4) Validate your pilot results on a larger scale

(5) Offer your product commercially nationwide


First priority should absolutely be to get rid of the bail system, which is horrifyingly slanted towards imprisonment of the poor, and doesn't accomplish much of anything beyond that.

Your calendar thing might be useful. But not as a part of the bail system. Bail must go.


Agreed bail must go. We are working in Kentucky, where bail is gone. However, it has not solved the problem.


> Kentucky

Is there any public post, news, or data available yet on the work you're doing in Kentucky?


I think it makes sense to have multiple possible ways to compel someone to behave as you'd like. Money can be a way, but I agree that other ways could be as or more effective and accessible.


Bail or no bail, I do not see how your system will prevent the Shkreli and Holmes of this world to not be the prime benefactor and beneficiary of your system.


They would probably choose to get out without our program. The system works better for people with money. We are trying to bend the arc of justice but it is still bent.We are working with a population that is incarcerated because they cannot afford bail.


The system will always be bent towards people with money; thats what money is for.

I like that you are trying to help the people on the other end of that curve.


It looks to me like they're designed to help the accused, not the criminal. Here's a great infographic about the problem: http://www.pretrial.org/the-problem/


I think you may be right. They use the terms Jail and Custody instead of prison and incarcerated.

It's not that clear from the information presented though.

I also assume that they intend to be presented as an alternative to a prison sentence, if the judge is so persuaded. Just having a track record of compliance with Promise before any sentencing happens would probably be quite helpful.

I think this is one of the neater startups I've seen. However, privatized jails/prisons seem to be rife with abuse... privatizing parole seems like it would suffer the same temptations.


Very good feedback. Our site is focused on our clients who use very specific language. We will think about how to speak to folks who are not in the system right now.


> (1) I am always concerned about start ups with hugely impactful products that seem to lack rigor around their technology. This one will be part of determining who gets what care or who gets sent to jail. Where's the evidence that Promise will make this decision better?

I'm not with Promise, but let me tackle this one.

What currently decides which suspects stay in jail? Two things: a judge that sets (or denies) a bail price, and the ability of the suspect to pay that price, either directly or through a bond. What this means is that, as mentioned in the OP, the poor, who will be most strongly affected by being unable to work before their trial, are also those who will be most likely unable to pay their bond.

I would also like more information on how Promise will determine who will be eligible for their services, but whatever the process is, if it means that any number of people are able to continue working and helping their family as opposed to rotting away in a concrete box just because they can't pay to bail out, it's absolutely a net win.


Thank you. This is a beautiful answer. We agree on the criteria for evaluating what someone's risk is. Currently, it is primarily decided by the court. We are learning and adapting our own tool based on tools such as the one by the Arnold Foundation but also using qualitative analysis.


Some lit, Stanford CS paper: "Even accounting for these concerns, our results suggest potentially large welfare gains: one policy simulation shows crime reductions up to 24.7% with no change in jailing rates, or jailing rate reductions up to 41.9% with no increase in crime rates." Judges are famous for not even being close to the pareto optimal curve.

https://cs.stanford.edu/~jure/pubs/bail-qje17.pdf


It's not a net win if, for example, someone is let out on bail because Promise calls them a low risk and they rape someone.

I agree that there is a huge need for reform in the system. My point is what evidence is Promise relying on when they promise to make improvements? Why should I think they're better and how are we going to verify in 1, 5, or 10 years that they are?


> It's not a net win if, for example, someone is let out on bail because Promise calls them a low risk and they rape someone.

So if a bail bond company grants a bond to someone and they rape someone, is the bail bond company at fault? Or the judge that permitted them to bail out?

And I'm willing to bet that for each person who commits a serious crime while out on this program, they will have hundreds, possibly thousands of people that don't - that are able to continue working and providing for their family when they otherwise wouldn't. Still an absolutely massive net win.


We agree. It is also really troublesome to make the case that poor people who cannot afford bail should be kept incarcerated for public safety, but people who have the money to bail out, can await trial at home.


The people that make bail have a financial incentive to “be good”, and not forfeit their bail. That part of the system works fine.... if they offend while out on bail, Uncle Sam gets paid. It’s a broken fix for a broken system.

Harsh(er) punishments are an effective deterrent, and if they don’t deter they should be harsh enough to wipe out offenders through attrition. Eg, shoplifting with 2 hands is easy, with 1 hand is difficult, and with 0 hands is nearly impossible.


> Or the judge that permitted them to bail out?

Yes, absolutely. It's part of the judge's job to make some initial assessment of risk and set bail accordingly (or deny it entirely). For example, if the charge is murder, bail is automatically denied.


> if the charge is murder, bail is automatically denied.

Not at all. Some judges may have that policy, and perhaps some state laws require it (though that would arguably not be constitutional and a violation of the separation of powers), but it's not certain that someone up on murder charges would not be able to bail out.

At any rate, the point is that if someone who has been charged - just charged, not convicted; remember, we're all supposed to be pretending people are innocent until proven guilty here - with a crime commits a crime before their conviction, the fault lies only on that person and that person alone, not on anyone else - and certainly not the judge.


That example was my understanding, glad to be corrected.

> At any rate, the point is that if someone who has been charged - just charged, not convicted

Agree completely. But if we are not making some estimation of the possibility of guilt and possible behavior by a guilty party given freedom then what is the point of ever denying bail? We deny bail because they might be guilty, and if they are it might not be safe for them to be released. We're not saying that they are guilty, but conceding that it might be negligent to allow them freedom before determining their guilt.

> the fault lies only on that person and that person alone

I'm certainly not trying to absolve the perpetrator, but certainly from an ethical point of view at least (IANAL) you have to admit the possibility of negligence.


This is not the point of bail. Bail is not some sort of speculative conviction that you can pay to avoid. The only purpose of bail is to hold somebody if they may be reasonably judged to be a flight risk.

Bail is, btw, almost certainly unconstitutional and should be abolished. It's one of those things that slipped through the cracks and was kind of grandfathered in. The Supreme Court has ruled again and again that in a system where persons are presumed innocent any sort of pre-conviction punishment by the state (fines, excessive jail, forced hospitalization) is not allowed. Somehow though the judge has the power to declare somebody a flight risk and order them held until trial. This is a little mitigated by the right to a speedy trial but is still likely wrong.


> Bail is, btw, almost certainly unconstitutional and should be abolished

Had the framers wanted to prohibit bail, the 8th Amendment would be one word shorter; as it is, only excessive bail is unconstitutional.


Yes, the Constitution implicitly permits bail by prohibiting excessive bail. (That's at least one way to read it.) The courts have also asserted that bail is somehow "fundamental" to the system of law (it's not to be questioned). Still what's not clear is (1) whether the power to deny bail is constitutional (some might think refusal of bail, in effect a bail that cannot payed at all for any amount of money is rather excessive) and (2) whether excessive should be understood as relative of the client's ability to pay. In fact Stack makes it somewhat clear that the defendant's ability to pay partially determines excessive... and yet here we are: every year millions of people go to jail because they are denied bail or they cannot pay. It should be clear that the current system where the government locks up millions of defendants because they cannot pay bail (or are refused jail) is not what was intended by the framers. Abolishing bail or ensuring that bail is always and everywhere affordable and reasonable is the way to go. A startup like Promise offers a perhaps much-needed band-aid but the entire system is broken and should be revisited.


> Promise offers a perhaps much-needed band-aid but the entire system is broken and should be revisited.

That's actually my biggest fear with private services like Promise — a new for-profit bandaid both reduces the pressure to reform the underlying system just as it is gathering real steam, and creates a new set of parties with a profit interest in preserving the underlying system.


Thank you for your thoughts. I wanted to share a couple recent reference points on the topic of bail/pretrial detention. Here is a cite to a recent CA case that came out of SF and discusses what judges must consider to set bail: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1886990.html. In CA, we also have Senate Bill 10 that is pending and deals with changes to the pretrial release system: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml...


> Agree completely. But if we are not making some estimation of the possibility of guilt and possible behavior by a guilty party given freedom then what is the point of ever denying bail?

Bail, or it's denial, is principally about the risk of the accused not showing up to court, and thereby escaping legal process; the type of crime is also considered, but again that's mostly (but not entirely) because it factors into risk to the process (both motivation to avoid process and risk of violence directed at witnesses, etc.)


I replied a bit further along in the comments. I am the co-founder. Thank you.


> So if a bail bond company grants a bond to someone and they rape someone, is the bail bond company at fault? Or the judge that permitted them to bail out?

It's not a matter of fault. It's a matter of who is going to do a better job at granting bail. Promise or a Judge?

Promise says that they can, which in most tech start ups is enough. If we find out 5 years later that your algorithm sucks at, say, picking out clothes for someone, who cares? You go out of business and some people will have gotten worse clothes. If Promise's algorithm sucks then in 5 years later we will have a bunch of additional crime victims on our hands.

>And I'm willing to bet that for each person who commits a serious crime while out on this program, they will have hundreds, possibly thousands of people that don't - that are able to continue working and providing for their family when they otherwise wouldn't. Still an absolutely massive net win.

How will we know you are right? The things that Promise does are the things that should end up as peer reviewed journal articles. That's the point of my question. How is anyone going to know that Promise is working?


> It's not a matter of fault. It's a matter of who is going to do a better job at granting bail. Promise or a Judge?

Promise would not be replacing the function of a judge here. That's ludicrous. The judge would be permitting a suspect to work with Promise's system rather than rotting in jail.

> How is anyone going to know that Promise is working?

When people are able to work and take care of their families who would otherwise be sitting in a concrete box, waiting for time to pass.


> Promise would not be replacing the function of a judge here. That's ludicrous. The judge would be permitting a suspect to work with Promise's system rather than rotting in jail.

Even if their risk assessment plays no role in who gets bail, they still are involved with major decisions impacting people's lives so the point still stands. Which, after three posts you still haven't really addressed. What evidence does Promise have that their product will make things better? This isn't really something you give the old college try and hope to find success.

>When people are able to work and take care of their families who would otherwise be sitting in a concrete box, waiting for time to pass.

And how are we going to know that is happening? This is the type of stuff that is done with controlled experiments resulting in peer reviewed journal articles.


I'm not sure if you're unclear of the system, or have some specific point I've been unable to ascertain through your prior posts, but as I understand it Promise is not an alternative that allows more people to be released that otherwise would have been detained, it's an alternative that allows people that the judge already deemed eligible for bail to have a non-monetary option for release.

That is, if you have resources you can get out without Promise, Promise just helps those that were already deemed not a risk to the community by the Judge find a method of spending the weeks/months leading up to their trial still being able to lead a semi-normal life and not incarcerated and not have to have significant financial resources to do so.


>it's an alternative that allows people that the judge already deemed eligible for bail to have a non-monetary option for release.

That would be a big deal, but I don't see that in the OP or their website. Can you quote where they say that is what they are pitching?


You're right that it is somewhat danced around in the initial announcement. I think a lot of people, including myself, read into it based on some hints throughout (such as where it talks about pre-trial incarceration along with some other types), and made assumptions.

That said, there is a comment that clarifies that this is at least one area they are looking at:

The fundamental issue is that we are focusing on poor people who are bail eligible and incarcerated only because they cannot afford bail. [1]

That said, they could try to expand beyond that. In addition, this additional comment means a lot of what I said, and others have said, may not quite be accurate, at least in the future:

It is a judge. However, there is a recent court decision(Humphrey), that is creating a lot of change within the system. [2]

1: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16631647

2: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16631990


You are correct. If someone can afford bail, they will likely bail out. If someone is not given bail by a judge, they will not be allowed to bail out or participate with Promise-they will stay in jail until the resolution of their case. If someone has been given a bail, but cannot afford to bail out, this is someone who is eligible to work with Promise. If the court agrees, they will be released from jail and returned to the community (their job, home, family, etc.) without posting bail. Promise will then help support them to 1. Comply with their court mandated obligations and 2. Connect them to services based on a needs assessment conducted by Promise staff. I hope this is clear. We will work to review the website and make sure that it is. Thank you!


> Which, after three posts you still haven't really addressed. What evidence does Promise have that their product will make things better? This isn't really something you give the old college try and hope to find success.

I've addressed it. People who cannot afford to pay bail (or for a bail bond) will be able to work and be with their families rather than stay in jail. Do you disagree that this is "making things better?"

>>When people are able to work and take care of their families who would otherwise be sitting in a concrete box, waiting for time to pass.

>And how are we going to know that is happening?

Are you over-thinking this? We will know this is happening when people show up for work and then go home to their families at the end of the day.


>I've addressed it. People who cannot afford to pay bail (or for a bail bond) will be able to work and be with their families rather than stay in jail. Do you disagree that this is "making things better?"

It's not evidence. You're answer defines a success criteria, but does not give evidence. I agree that if fewer people stay in jail that would be a success. What proof does Promise have that they will achieve that?

>Are you over-thinking this? We will know this is happening when people show up for work and then go home to their families at the end of the day.

And how am I supposed to know that is happening? Is Promise going to publish numbers? What is their control group?


We are measured by Failure to Appear (FTA) rates, participation in a a court mandated plan, rate of recidivism, ease of use for case managers.


But to the extent that any one of those metrics may show that your methodology has a negative or even negligible impact, what mechanisms exist to ensure your fidelity to these metrics, instead of leaning on public relations and marketing that pick up the slack?

No one is here accusing you of doing any of these things. On the contrary, there is an implication that you are positive that you will be able to do these things, even though you're obviously still validating the idea, at some level.

Edit: switched you're for your.


Promise or a Judge?

Isn't Promise proposing a combination of both, rather than just the judge alone? e.g.,

Before: Judge makes decision; person is more or less on their own.

After: Judge makes decision; person loosed but with a variety of tools/functions to help them.


The fundamental issue is that we are focusing on poor people who are bail eligible and incarcerated only because they cannot afford bail. Yes, some people who have been accused of a crime, do commit an additional crime. However, it is fundamentally unjust to only incarcerate those who are poor and mostly black and brown.


Will your company be posting bail for your clients?


> It's not a net win if, for example, someone is let out on bail because Promise calls them a low risk and they rape someone.

That's literally the definition of a net win. You do your best and things get better, mostly. It doesn't mean perfect


Someone who hasn't been convicted of a crime is not yet a criminal, at least not from the perspective of a criminal justice system based on "innocent until proven guilty." If we start restricting the rights of people we're merely suspicious of in the off chance they commit a crime, we create a very dystopian society.


Right now they are being incarcerated. We believe having technology that supports you is better than being incarcerated.


I'm pretty sure the government would be the final arbiter of who would be let out. Which does raise the perennial issue of, no politician wants to be the person to let that one guy out who commits another crime, even if the other 9,999 did great.


It is a judge. However, there is a recent court decision(Humphrey), that is creating a lot of change within the system.


Consider the Lucas Critique [1]. To paraphrase, the general idea is that it is natural for organizations to seek to optimize their ability to navigate any regulation, or any impediment to maximizing their profits, or otherwise maximally seeking their ultimate goal. Its advice is that it is counterproductive to try to reign in the behavior of sophisticated organizations with exact targets of compliance, as you are simply giving those very organizations a blueprint for the necessary optimizations for both minimal, often semantic compliance, and a continuation of the actual behavior the original regulation intended to curb.

The application to this subject is the very idea that companies such as this are motivated to optimize their methodology of convincing judges or whatever ultimate adjudicator exists, to exonerate their clients.

I don't see any indication of Promise being a nonprofit, so we have to assume their primary goal is in fact profit.

Bad actors shouldn't be able to throw money at the optimization of skirting the law. To the extent that Promise is successful, that conclusion can and will be easily drawn to great effect.

Will every employee of Promise need to convince their state bar association of their character and fitness?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucas_critique


Promise isnt (yet) working with convicted clients. This is purely a pre-trial intervention, as they keep saying. So supposing that they will be trying to exonerate their clients is a red herring.

Supposing that their motives are pure profit is extra cynical; there are plenty of organizations in the world that do good and still earn a little money.

Since this is all pre-trial, the incentives for Promise are to ensure that they have the best rates possible of a) showing up for trial and b) not committing extra offenses until then. The only danger I see is the possibility that they would over-select candidates and get too many who use this as a way to dodge their trials or commit more crimes. Since either of these harm their ability to do business, I would think you agree that they are incented to minimize those events.

I dont think Lucas applies; its about the weakness of regulations to control actors. This is a new organization that aims to offer an alternative for existing government actors.


This is all happy-path talk. We'll do everything right forever in all cases no matter what, talk.

I'm concerned about what their plan is for if and when they find out that the hypothesis that is their most prominent, and most marketable use case has been falsified, yet it turns out that some other market they hadn't even considered at the start is absolutely printing money for them, even if it represents significant mission creep from keeping poor people out of jail.

Supposing that their motives are profit driven is putting two and two together. We're currently in the middle of YC demo days. This very post constitutes a prong in their launch strategy.

Claiming that profit motive and the motive to do good in the world are mutually exclusive is the true red herring here. It is separately egregious, because it also aims to frame my argument as wanting them to fail in any related venture. As I've said all along, I'd simply like to know what, besides blind trust, should we lean on, to ensure that a private company, who will undoubtedly have lots of reasons to want to keep its methodologies a secret, will be honest and forthcoming in the better than average chance that their favored marketing use case doesn't end up as what is truly sustaining their business. After all, no plan survives first contact with the enemy.

The answer to people claiming you might be a bad actor is go the extra mile, and do things and con men cannot, such as provide meaningful context, and coherent arguments that actually address your skeptics' questions.

The Lucas Critique is actually one of those theories that has been put forth in many permutations, such as the Cobra Effect, Campbells Law, and Goodhart's Law. In plain english, its just saying that if you want to prevent some behavior in others, giving clear, explicit, comprehensive targets of what it means to comply is counterproductive, because those targets are always an imperfect proxy for the actual behavior you wish to curb, and "compliance" can nearly always be achieved to the letter of the law, while not in the spirit of the law. It applies to social theory in general, which is the context of Campbell's Law.


I think that your heart is in the right place, but objecting to something like Promise just because they have a profit motive is letting perfect be the enemy of good. As I said above, if this system means a single person is able to be working and taking care of their family rather than sitting in a cold concrete box, a great justice has been done to the world, regardless of the motivations of those responsible.


I think your optimism has a fighting chance of being mirrored in reality at some point in the future. I don't object to the idea of Promise. I object to absolutist statements claiming that companies who plan to do great good by carrying out operations that could easily be subverted to great harm are unequivocally a net positive.

If what you're saying actually comes to pass, I'll celebrate it. But to gas light the devil's advocates who simply want to ensure that this isn't another group of Elizabeth Holmes style charlatans, is transparent and fully deserving of being called out as grade A, corn fed bullshit. I can almost hear the raspiness in your voice as you describe these situations. There's a Sean Colvin song playing in the background.

One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. How will you deftly strum my heart strings if its an objectively guilty rapist who is allowed to take care of their family, rather than sit in the cold concrete box where other possible victims are safe from him?


Your questions remind me of how Eli Whitney's cotton gin, originally invented for the purpose of making the lives of slaves better, instead dramatically increased the demand for slaves causing the enslavement of millions.

See http://teachinghistory.org/history-content/ask-a-historian/2... for more details on that example.


Sounds like an instance of Jevons' Paradox.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox


I don't remember running across that paradox before.

It clearly is an example.


With regards to point #1, based on reading the description of Promise and glancing at their website, it does not sound like technology plays a meaningful role in deciding who is released from jail.

> Here's how Promise works: We work in partnership with governments who release people from jail on condition that they work with Promise as an alternative to being in custody. We also provide support to people under community supervision. We use an intake assessment to create an individualized plan that is based on the risks and needs of each participant."

I took that to mean that someone from the government and someone from Promise look together at the record of someone in jail (and obviously the government would have the final say), decide if they are a candidate for release.

And, my first thought about the "intake asseessment" step to ascertain the level of risk of individuals in the Promise program was that it would be like any other social science/psychology-based interview and questionnaire process.

#2 is a good point, and a concern I had as well. At the same time, if some progress could be made (as Promise intends) on decreasing our prison population, that would be really good for society.

#3 seems like an assumption. Maybe, maybe not - it's hard to say without input from those who have experience w/the criminal justice system.

I definitely agree there are a lot of ethics issues here. That said, on a scale of 1 - 10, for tech companies/ideas with potential ethics issues, this is way below the Google/Facebook/Palantir/etc level - i.e., this is not the slipperiest slope we have to slide.


> (2) It seems like streamlining and increasing the ability of governments to monitor parolees...

>It seems like the founders want to make a positive impact on society, but there's a whole lot of slippery slope and other ethical issues here.

Only on HN is app-based remote monitoring seen as potentially worse than being IN JAIL.


When you are in jail or someone you love is in jail the choice to get out with a smartphone app and support is pretty clear. It is interesting feedback about monitoring but when it is you or your family, you want out. The most folks reaching out to us, have families who are trying to help their loved ones.


While I agree that limited release is better than incarceration in many instances, I don't think the GP should be dismissed so quickly. The third point is important. If being put into this system is viewed as not has harsh as being incarcerated, does that change how likely people are to have charges pressed? Does this bypass most of that by being associated with the pre-trial but post-charges phase? If it ends up causing a 20% dorp in pre-trial incarceration but somehow encourages 20% more arrests that have charges applied, is that worthwhile?

I don't know the answer to any of these, but I think it's worth discussing. As such, I've decided to view your dismissal as a compliment. "Only on HN is app-based remote monitoring as a method to reduce jail seen as a complex system with many inputs and outputs that sometimes have unintended consequences and as such it deserves in-depth discussion, especially since it's such an important issue." (not that I think this discussion is only available on HN)


> Only on HN is app-based remote monitoring seen as potentially worse than being IN JAIL.

That's a bit of a strawman - there are other ethical issues at play here. Some people don't have smartphones. Others will have theirs lost/stolen/broken. Do they go back to jail?


Is it a local thing to have incredibly cheap smart devices? I can go a town over in the rural US and get a cheap smartphone for like $30 with a prepaid plan. Granted, I can't imagine it would be an amazing experience to use, but far better than jail.


$30 is a lot for some people, especially those facing jail. Then there's paying for data. The app might not work on the older Android version that's on a $30 device. People with intellectual disabilities may struggle with a mobile phone.

None of these things should wind up determining whether a person goes to jail or not, but that's a risk here.


Seems to me like there's a lot of people lying between "Can't afford $30 phone" and "Can't afford $5,000 bail".


Creating another layer of bureaucracy, even when covered in the veneer of startup tech, can definitely make things worse. Here are some open questions that may show how that's possible:

* What will happen if nefarious actors discover how to hack or game this system? Will you be able to pay the mob to get hacked out of jail?

* On the flip-side, could a nefarious actor put you in the penal system, or at least make it look like you were arrested?

* What protections are there around malfeasance within the company? Parole officers are public employees, but what's the liability within a LLC?


There’s this story of a private company working with big retailers to offer shoplifters some useless online “tutoring” instead of calling the police.

The shoplifters, often the poorest of the poor, had to pay hundreds of dollars for this “leniency”, often without knowing that the police wouldn’t even have come for the low-value crime.

Don’t do that.


Agreed. That sounds awful.


Mediated solutions are better than the alternatives of the perpetrator getting a criminal record or the shopkeeper deciding to break the shoplifter's fingers. These systems can and should be improved to avoid life-ruining spirals (bad for society), but there has to be some form of consequences for the perpetrator. Otherwise, victims would have to pay the costs of their victimization while the abusers learn nothing (also bad for society).

Promise should "do that" if they can improve the process relative to the status quo.



We very much appreciate the support and pushback. Both make us better. We have to present at Demo Day soon. We are not ignoring the comments, we just have to prep! We will be back online later today. Thank you.

Phaedra and Diana


I'm conflicted. I once spent 200 days in prison as a conscientous objector. As far as prisons go, it was about as humane as it gets. It was a so-called "open facility" in a Nordic country. We had rooms with doors that were locked st night. We worked making traffic signs in the daytime, for which we were paid a little, and the work was, in principle, voluntary. We could leave the prison compound for an hour each day for a jog or walk in the woods. It would have been easy to just not come back. It would also have been stupid. No-one ran away in the time I was there.

For all that it was barely even a prison, I resented it, and still do. Taking a person's freedom is wrong. It may be necessary for society to function, but it is still wrong. At best it's the lesser evil. And even if there was no prison, no walls, I know I would resent being told what to do in the way your system seems to require.

That said, what you're proposing still seems like it would be less bad than prison, especially prisons as I understand they are in the USA. Of the inmates I knew, practically all were addicts of some description. One young man could not grasp the idea that 110 millimeters is 11 centimeters when I tried to show him with a ruler. I don't imagine them being in prison helped very many of them, or society, in any meaningful way. The one person I felt might not return had apparently quit crime well before but been convicted of some old misdeeds when someone ratted him out.

So it sounds like your ideas are better, at least. Still, I can't say much more than that I think you're entering an enterprise that does evil in the name of the greater good. It probably needs doing, and it sounds like you're trying to reduce harm. I can't applaud you, but I hope you can accomplish your goals and live with yourselves, given the world you're entering.


> Of the inmates I knew, peactically all were addicts of some description.

Americans, culturally, seem to have little problem with spending a lot of money per year to keep a person incarcerated: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-prison-costs-201706...

But they will balk at taxpayer money being used for preventative programs which intend to stop people from becoming addicted to hard drugs (heroin/opiates, meth, cocaine) in the first place, and also balk at paying money for treatment of current addicts.


> Taking a person's freedom is wrong. It may be necessary for society to function, but it is still wrong.

I want to be charitable here, but it sounds like you're saying that it is unconditionally wrong, as in, prison is simply wrong. If you are, then, sorry, but that is utterly insane. If someone commits a serious crime, that person deserves serious punishment, and of serious punishments, imprisonment for a commensurate period of time is entirely appropriate. For the more egregious crimes, imprisonment is insufficient (think of Breivik who easily deserved the death penalty). What the appropriate measures against drug abuse are, I don't know.


I don't see what deserving one thing or the other has to do with it, honestly. Retribution is something the justice institutions have been slowly moving away from for centuriea now, but unfortunately remnants of eye-for-an-eye still linger.

And yes, my personal judgment is that taking a person's freedom may be necessary in sone cases but is always a violation. If we want to keep putting people in prison, we need to bear that burden, not pretend it doesn't exist.


One of the reasons the government punishes criminals is so that private individuals are less likely to punish criminals. We're trying to prevent an endless cycle of revenge. The victim, or their family, needs to feel that the criminal has suffered. Private punishment is not bound by any restriction on being cruel and unusual.


I don't see any indication of Promise being a non-profit. It seems to me that you're just trying to break into the prison-industrial complex. I am doubtful this is much better than current for-profit prisons considering you still require prisoners in order to make money. Come back as a non-profit or not-for-profit and then maybe you can change something.


I work as an executive at a non-profit, and have worked in other non-profits. With that said, I don't think this makes sense as a non-profit. Primarily, you choose to be a non-profit if you want to get your revenues from donors. They are targeting government, and so unless they thought they could fund their program through governmental grants, it makes more sense as a for-profit where they are bidding on government work.

Keep in mind, a for-profit can have a social good mission and remain aligned to it (See Patagonia for instance).


Wouldn't the right answer to this be some sort of Public Benefit Corporation where the board does not have an ultimate obligation to maximize shareholder value? As I understand it, they're available in more than half of US states, including CA and DE.


You should read this: https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/04/16/what-are-co...

Just because you are a for-profit does not mean you are beholden to pursuing profit at all costs. But yes, a B corp is another good option, though it has its pluses and minuses as well.


Why so much faith in non profits? If they have some specia sauce I’m not sure what it is. They still require the prisoners in order to exist and grow. And economically there’s this old joke...they’re not for profit, but they’re not for loss either.


> Why so much faith in non profits?

Perverse incentives. If a company's profit is linked to higher incarceration, they are incentivized to make the problem worse, not better.

This doesn't make all non-profits magical paragons of virtue, or all for-profits evil. It is simply an indicator.


I've heard this one before when discussing a non profit that was thinking of shopping itself around for an acquisition: "I thought they were not-for-profit?" ... "Well, yeah, but they're also not-for-going-out-of-business."


>Why so much faith in non profits?

I don't have that much faith in non-profits. But I don't have any faith in a for-profit company for social good.


Can't they do both? I don't think they're going to be in short supply of prisoners anytime soon. And running as a for-profit, they're going to have significantly more resources.


>Can't they do both? I don't think they're going to be in short supply of prisoners anytime soon.

Except there should be a much smaller supply of prisoners because many laws are unjust as they are now. The drug war directly serves the prison industrial complex and private prisons are one of the biggest lobbying groups against decriminalization and legalization.

Now maybe Promise won't lobby for the war on drugs because it would shatter their illusion of social good, but if they grow they will end up lobbying in other ways that will directly oppose public interests.


As a company that will make money from people committing crime, what is your incentive to reduce crime or otherwise prevent repeat offenders?


We really appreciate this question because we believe that the incentives in the criminal justice system are often wrong. Our goal is to get people out of jail and keep them out. Our program is set up for the purpose of getting them out of custody. We will also evaluate ourselves based on how we do at reducing recidivism.


You didn't really address the incentive, just simply stated your goals. I think clearly there is a financial incentive for a for-profit company to keep people in the system.

If you have ideological views that people > profit (which I suspect you do, and I completely agree with), then that can be an incentive. But I think it is important to recognize that people and the systems they build can be corrupted over time. What happens when people that don't have the same ideology take control? The profit incentive won't change, but the ideological one may.

I wasn't the one that asked the question initially, but it's possible that's what he/she was getting at.


We have introduced recidivism as part of our performance metrics. Currently, contractors are paid per day, per person. We believe it creates the wrong incentive. The best way to correct is to incentivize companies to have people not reenter the system.


Doesn't your board have the obligation to maximize shareholder value? Is it possible that would conflict with the metrics you mention as the driving force of your company? Is it possible that a Public Benefit Corporation might be a more suitable entity to serve this sort of need?


How are you paid?


You appreciate the question so much that you avoid the answer?

What is your business incentive to reduce crime rate? How reduction of the crime rate is making your business more profitable?


What is a dating websites incentive to couple people up? They have seemingly reverse incentives too. The better a dating website is the less potential users it might eventually have.


I don't think that anyone here is trying to say that this is the only industry in existence that has reverse incentives (in that their success could limit their future).

I think it's a bit of a stretch to compare online dating to an industry which, quite literally, destroys peoples lives and often unfairly targets disadvantaged groups.


One possible business incentive is that if Promise's outcomes actually cause an increase in crime, governments will be far less likely to hire them.


That's clearly not the way it's working out for private prisons.


This doesn't answer the question. Getting people out of jail is already rewarded as part of your business model. But you would also benefit by more people being tried and found guilty. I wonder if there is an answer. What about something like establishing a fund that is...funded based on recidivism? If recidivism is high, you cannot distribute profits, they must be channeled back into R&D to improve your services.


Perhaps repeat criminals on Promise are not eligible to use it in the future. All a repeat criminal in this case does is lower the governments trust in the product.


This is a big problem that needs creative solutions.

However, I'm nervous about a for-profit, investor-backed company getting into rehabilitation and criminal justice. When criminality becomes a profit center, these supporting companies are disincentivized to reduce crime or penalties for crime.

I can imagine companies like this will participate in lobbying efforts to keep recreational drugs criminalized as that's a huge population of offenders who will needs exactly these services.

I'd have a much better feeling if it was setup as a non-profit.


Agreed. Also, consider that growth, significant potential to scale, and high-end revenue are factors distinguishing startups from other kinds of businesses, and to be thinking of scale in this context is disturbing and flippant. This is not an area where "startup thinking" is appropriate.


This sounds extremely dystopian - perfecting surveillance technology in public spaces, normalizing a lower caste of unfree people, establishing a private market precedent for the cradle-to-grave nanny state.

Please stop.


Do you have any evidence to show in Jurisdictions where GPS is added as a condition to pretrial release that: a. Cost of bond went down; b. More defendants were granted release; or c. Less defendants violated conditions of bond?

It’s pretty common to have private contractors providing pre-trail release and probation services (at least in Florida) and I think you will find the opposite.

Take your contract for GPS Tracking, that won’t help anyone get bond who isn’t entitled to bond, and it won’t make bond cheaper for those that can’t afford it. GPS Tracking is just an added expense, it’s a condition of Pretorial release that: a) makes the contractors money and b) results in revocation of bond for violations of Pretrial/probation/parole conditions.

In my experience all these private contractors have exclusive contracts and are incentivized for people to violate (leading to charges, additional penalties, costs, etc...), for example:

-traffic schools

-DUI schools/programs

-DUI boots for cars

-DUI ignition breathalyzers

-drug testing facilities

-drug courts/treatment facilities

Ive seen more than a few HN discussions on the issues with privatized prisons. Same with the types of contracts/services I listed above, they ensure all their privatized services are added as conditions of release to the detriment of defendants, including financial burden and likelihood of violations so they end up right back where they started.


What happens when Promise loses an individual? Who pays the cost for them to be tracked down and returned. I'm assuming existing systems will be used such as bounty hunters to do this job.


We will not use bounty hunters like bail bond companies. We will have a plan with the local jurisdiction that we are in. That will be county specific but will involve us trying to get them back on calendar if they miss a court date, but ultimately the Sheriff or local law enforcement picking them up if they have an outstanding warrant.


> ...but will involve us trying to get them back on calendar if they miss a court date

Isn't that inherently what bounty hunters do?


So you’ll use the local PD as bounty hunters, without the bounty. I’ve read through this whole thread, and I wonder if you’re aware of just how smarmy and evavise you’ve been throughout? As PR goes, silence would serve you better than your comments in the aggregate, and where you stop responding.

For example!

It’s understandable that you have no good answer to this, because the answer is clear. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16631983

Cavalier indeed https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16632252

Ugh https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16631560

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16631723

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16632770

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16632329

It just goes on.

It’s a bit too clear that you’ve identified a place where yet another middleman can profit without solving a problem directly, or rendering services, as a for-profit company in a space which should not be producing profits.


According to your post, one fifth of prisoners are awaiting trial.

Our constitution says that people have the right to a speedy trial.

Shouldn't we be working to make the trial process faster? Assuming that these individuals don't go to jail, I find the "promise" approach unethical for someone who is innocent.


> Our constitution says that people have the right to a speedy trial.

Indeed; that's part of the Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Also the Tenth Amendment states:

> Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

And boy, is this Amendment violated good and hard constantly. Let's not even talk about the First and Second.

Our governments are very good at ignoring their own laws.


What's are some examples of cruel and unusual punishment in the American justice system?


As a strong libertarian, I have some pretty… unconventional ideas in that regard. Suffice it to say that I think any imprisonment of non-violent or non-property-crime offenders is abhorrent.

But I understand this viewpoint is nutso in the eyes of many. Still, I think most can agree, especially the wealthy Silicon Valley liberal types the tech industry is rife with, that things are out of control with the current state of the "justice" system.


I love what you're doing, I love your mission.

My biggest concern is the Prison Guard Union. For example, in California, they are the most powerful political group in the state. California is #41 in spending per student, but #1 in spending per prisoner.

How will you break through the prison union, when what you offer ostensibly reduces the need for prison guards?


This feels like one of the more ambitious startups YC has funded in a while, I love it.

Has Promise been used in a real-world setting yet? I'd love to see the results.


We are in our first pilot. Will update when we have more results.


I was watching an interview of the most famous criminal lawyer of my country. He raised a family of four, they all became lawyer too. The lawyer, in his post-war lifetime, became wildly successful in defending criminals on the edge of society; Gypsies, high-profile criminals, et cetera.

In this interview, he was asked what a good justice system would look like. His reply was that real justice would involve a large factor of "making things right" for the victims. Not just pointless punishment (while punishment was certainly a factor he'd see in the system), but focused towards "making things right". If you steal, pay back the stolen goods manyfold. If you sexually abuse, do time in help centers to assist victims (obviously well-supervised). If you kill, help the family financially and do time in aftercare.

The whole focus on justice in his point of view should be to ease the burden of the act for the family/society afterwards. To me this is a really great view of fixing any wrongdoing. I hope Promise will focus on this facet as well; it would be beneficial too. Public support will definitely increase as well as the lives of victims.


> If you steal, pay back the stolen goods manyfold.

Setting things up so that you profit when someone is convicted of stealing from you seems like a dangerous incentive.


> We work in partnership with governments who release people from jail on condition that they work with Promise as an alternative to being in custody.

What does it mean for the person to "work with Promise?" Are they performing a service or labor, or simply a subject of the administration protocols mentioned later? In other words, Promise offloads the management of the individual while they await trial from local gov't to a third party?


They will not be performing any service or labor for Promise. They will work with our team. Our team with get them set up on the app, do an intake to refer them to appropriate support services, work with them to make sure they know about court dates and other obligations, etc.


Case management! Got it.


The wife worked on a similar So. Cal government program for approx. 4-years in the late 90’s. Designed primarily for helping people with mental illnesses who had been arrested (a large % of jail population). My observation was that the program was very effective, but limited in scope due to funding. If interested, can put you in touch with her to discuss.


That would be great. We very much appreciate it. You can email us at founders@joinpromise.com


What is your sales pipeline like? Who is your initial target? I have _no_ experience in this area, but I think very small muni that dont have facilities, that have to contract out to counties or other towns could be a first good target. Esp places that know the burden that incarceration places on the rest of the people and services in those towns.

Could it also be applied to halfway house use cases? I assume you will require the user to carry a smartphone and it will have geofencing, in and out. I also assume you will be using face recognition to semi-randomly authenticate the user.

This is the first YC HN post I have ever opened, I think this is great idea, esp because most of these businesses are started by unethical leaders motivated purely by profit.


Thank you for opening and sharing your thoughts! We have been speaking with sheriff departments, district attorneys, public defenders, probation departments, judges and other parts of the criminal justice system. They have slightly different motivations but most agree that Promise could benefit individuals going through the system. Thank you for your idea. We will definitely look into that.


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