Refoundry Helps Former Inmates Create Home Furnishings and Build New Lives

Refoundry trains formerly incarcerated people to refurbish and repurpose discarded materials into one-of-a-kind home furnishings.

Refoundry trains formerly incarcerated people to refurbish and repurpose discarded materials into one-of-a-kind home furnishings.

Two-thirds of people released from prison are rearrested within three years, according to the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.

One non-profit organization is aiming to change that and has established a way to employ former prisoners, turning them into entrepreneurs.

Refoundry, an innovative Brooklyn nonprofit, trains former incarcerated people to repurpose and refurbish discarded materials into one-of-a-kind home furnishings and accessories, culminating in an incubation process. The program is intended to help set a new and positive path for formerly incarcerated people, have positive environmental impact, and save significant government revenues.

Refoundry is the non-profit concept of furniture manufacturer Cisco Pinedo and Tommy Safian, who closed his popular furniture store Nova Zembla in 2010. Prior to establishing the organization, Mr. Safian learned about the challenges facing non-profits that help prisoners back into society. Government funding can offer quick job placements, but flipping burgers for a living isn’t necessarily ideal for a new life.

Employees at Refoundry will eventually start their own business:

“What we’re doing is we’re developing their skill to produce a particular product, and selling it through Refoundry’s channels. When we incubate them they will have their own space, some of their own equipment, they will produce that under their own business entity,” explained Safian.

The ideal Refoundry participant is someone who is a little bit older, has spent at least 5 years in prison and has already finished a transitional program.

Set on a new path and no turning back, participants are enjoying their time, especially for Eugene Manigo:

“This is the kind of work I like to do. I like working with my hands, when I was in prison for 20 years I worked with my hands for Corcraft. I did all their products for 45 cents an hour. Why can’t I come out here and do it for myself?”

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