PBS Online Film Festival

S2019 E1 | FULL EPISODE

All Square: Justice Served in a Sandwich

Emily Hunt Turner saw opportunity for criminal justice reform in her restaurant, All Square. Leaving prison, people often face challenges and stigma as they begin their new lives. At the Craft grilled cheese restaurant, those with criminal records are employed and taken through a professional development program anchored in law and entrepreneurship in order to pave way towards a better future.

AIRED: July 15, 2019 | 0:05:18
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

(light music)

- I'm passionate about what I do,

because for the longest time,

I worked in the legal arena for the Federal Government

and felt so completely disempowered

and quite honestly, sad at the sort of grave setbacks

of the Criminal Justice System.

And I really didn't feel as a lawyer

that I was a part of the solution.

The systemic issues that I was seeing

were so big and on such a macro level

that it just felt like, I couldn't imagine

how to actually contribute to reversing it.

It was incredibly empowering to just start my own thing.

So instead of asking people to do what we believe

is right, we're just doing it and we're becoming that model.

All Square is a civil rights social enterprise.

We are centered on a craft grilled cheese restaurant

and a companion professional institute.

We invest in those who have criminal records,

and every six months we have a cohort

of fellows who travel through our curriculum

and they work at the restaurant

as a way to put, you know, real money in their pockets.

But they're also traveling through a 12-month curriculum

anchored in law and entrepreneurship.

- All Square to me is an opportunity for change.

You know, it's a real blessing.

They opened my eyes to really make me believe

that I can actually do that,

I can actually pursue my dreams.

You know, I'm not just a criminal, I'm not just a felon.

I hope to prove a lot of people wrong,

a lot of judges, a lot of POs

that think that I'm just gonna end up back in the system.

And I wanna prove them wrong.

I'm not gonna do that.

I'm gonna keep moving forward.

- The support system is huge here.

I think they really care about you,

and then they care about where you're gonna go

after this program ends.

So I think that's really important

that they care about you a lot,

because some people come in and they don't have

that support system.

So when they guide us, they really mean it.

But I took it as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

It will never happen again if I let it pass me on,

so it was my future.

- The institute piece really came

from my formerly incarcerated mentors,

who really stressed in the beginning

that this thing just can't be a job.

It has to be so much more than that.

The challenges that people face

when they leave prison extend from employment

and housing and securing a line of credit,

securing health care, to even just existing

and engaging in democracy.

There's stigma everywhere you look.

Everything you apply for, your record comes up.

I mean, I just can't imagine having my mistakes rubbed

in my face every day the rest of my life.

I just can't.

I can't imagine how discouraging that must be.

I really wanted to make sure that the name

said something about what we're doing.

We wanna use the brand to really challenge the narrative

that comes with having a record

and to send a message that, you know,

once you have paid your debts, you're all square.

And we should all, as a society, support you

in moving forward.

When folks walk out of our program

and graduate from All Square, it's to have a viable pathway

into the next big thing, whatever that is for them, right?

We're huge proponents of letting them self-identify

what it is they want, what field they wanna be in.

To not only sort of exist

and subsist after they are released,

but to excel into, you know, wealth and prosperity

and overall, sort of happiness.

It's such a fallacy that you can't do good and do well.

Very much believe that All Square is a viable business model

and a profitable one, and we wanna instill

that same sort of drive for doing well financially

in all of our fellows.

As a social enterprise, we're transacting

with our beneficiaries.

When it comes to reporting and telling the world,

telling funders, telling investors,

telling foundations what you're doing

and why it matters, there's a way,

because you're transacting with your beneficiaries,

there's a way to actually measure that

and show, in dollar signs, the social impact

that you're having as an organization.

So for me, social enterprise is, in this sort of new,

viable model, and always include revenue generation,

is the way of the future.

I really hope that the community and the public at large

can find a sense of comradery and collective purpose

in a space like All Square, to get beyond

what the narratives that we all have been fed

and to just meet people and break bread a little bit.

Having that grilled cheese angle

has been a really beautiful way to temper

some of the sort of intensity that can come

with a mission like this.

The grilled cheese, in my mind,

has really become this fun ingredient

that just cuts through all of the sort of potential discord

and there's just warmth, you know?

There's just warmth, there's excitement.

It's just been kind of magical.

(light music)

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