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US: Prisoner education provider APDS raises $7m

Image from APDS’s website

New York City-based APDS, a public-benefit corporation whose platform helps prisoners attain a living wage after release, has raised $7 million in funding in a Series C round co-led by ETS Strategic Capital, which invested $2 million, and New Markets Venture Partners.

The round also saw the return of investments from Converge Venture Partners, ECMC Group’s Education Impact Fund, Juvo Ventures, the Partnership Fund for New York City, Rethink Education, and Strada Education Network.

APDS stated that the capital will allow the company to scale its services further across correctional facilities across the US, while enhancing its learning platform, content offerings and strategic partnerships.

APDS caters to inmates in more than 110 prisons across 17 US states, providing its technology and services for free to its users. APDS learners have a 20% increase in post-incarceration employment and students utilising APDS have a 130% increase in high school equivalency pass rates and are about 70% more likely to complete their post-release re-entry plans than their peers.

Harris Ferrell, APDS’s chief executive, said: “APDS is poised to transform the correctional system. The momentum is growing across the country to rethink our society’s approach to incarceration and preparation for re-entry. Just last month, the Biden administration promised $145 million to develop re-entry plans for incarcerated persons. APDS has been a leader in this process through our whole human framework approach to education.

“We use our proprietary curriculum, assessments and plans to equip these individuals for long-term success. We can only accomplish this mission with dedicated investors who are double-bottom line oriented. This fundraising round will contribute directly toward continuing to develop our product, supporting the momentum of sales, and connecting our learners with the resources and support they need to obtain living wage jobs.”

Ralph Taylor-Smith, ETS Strategic Capital’s managing director and incoming APDS board member, said: “Our investment and role support the creation of innovative, quality educational opportunities for incarcerated people. We are excited to bring the power of assessment to APDS to drive second-chance opportunities, create new pathways for those re-entering society and to reduce recidivism. Expanding access to quality education for all people is the heart of our mission at ETS and we are proud to partner with APDS to advance this shared goal.”

Mark Grovic, general partner at New Markets Venture Partners, added: “We are very excited to support APDS as it scales an increasingly efficacious solution to dramatically improve outcomes for returning citizens. The management team is best in class and APDS is exactly the type of high-impact and commercially successful investment New Markets strives to enable.”

Today more than two million people are imprisoned in the US – the highest figure in the world.

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