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This Article builds upon an ongoing community economic development (CED) action research project at The George Washington Law School Small Business and Community Economic Development Clinic that explores progressive strategies to economical empower formerly incarcerated individuals as they return home from prison. Formerly incarcerated individuals in America — appropriately called “returning citizens” but more frequently labeled “ex-felons” — are shackled with the stigma of their prison record long after serving time behind bars, a stigma that impairs their civil rights and limits their prospects for economic prosperity in the job market. This Article discusses recent legislation in the District of Columbia that promotes economic empowerment for returning citizens, the D.C. Incarceration to Incorporation Entrepreneurship Program (IIEP) Act of 2015. One of the critical challenges facing the D.C. IIEP Act is a lack of funding for program implementation. Accordingly, the Article follows by exploring whether the social impact bond model of impact investing can turn the tide and help reduce returning citizen recidivism.

This Article was drafted as part of a symposium — Lessons from Baltimore and Washington, D.C.: Working with Community-Based Organizations to Build Capacity and Fight for Economic Justice — held at the Association of American Law Schools Conference on Clinical Legal Education, April 30–May 3, 2016, in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference theme, “Clinics and Communities: Exploring Community Engagement Through Clinical Education,” was a platform for examining “the role of law and lawyers in aggravating or alleviating suffering, and in collaborating on legal efforts to build communities’ strengths and address harms experienced by those who seek their assistance.”


Originally published in American Bar Association Journal of Affordable Housing & Community Development Law and shared here with their permission.

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