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All Square Minneapolis humanizes the incarcerated

Rigi Miller via

All Square is a non-profit restaurant committed to de-stigmatizing and uplifting those impacted by the criminal legal system, while helping them to get back on their feet. It offers a nine month fellowship to the formerly incarcerated, which includes a full-time job at the All Square restaurant, a three month business course created around the individual's desires, and the option of mental health services provided in collaboration with Creative Kuponya.

“The skills with the restaurant along with the fellowship program, teaches them business skills. It's a lot that goes into it,” said Restaurant Director Rigi Miller. “We also give grants at the end of their time here to use for the startup of their business. So a lot of people take pride in that, and it makes them want to deliver even more because it's appreciated.”

The restaurant, which offers an assortment of grilled cheese sandwiches, provides its fellows with a livable wage.

Miller says the fellowship has produced major results for participants, including a scholarship to law school, a licensed food catering company, an online wedding boutique, a mobile car detailing operation, and music video production.

Upon release, the formerly incarcerated are often faced with barriers when seeking basic necessities, especially housing and employment. As a result, many end up returning to criminal activity in order to survive. Currently in Minnesota, 25% of its incarcerated population goes back into the system. Even those that aren’t funneled back through the system are plagued by stigmas that often follow them throughout their life and directly impact their ability to thrive.

All Square is founded on the belief that once someone has served their time they are “all square,” and shouldn’t have to suffer further.

“The people who come to apply for this program haven't been able to have that opportunity to show, ‘this is who I am. My circumstances got me in the position. But this is who I really am.’ So it takes people back from how they perceive people who've been incarcerated. We let our fellows be who they are without being judged,” said Miller.

Founded by Emily Hunt Turner, All Square was launched in September 2018. In addition to the fellowship, All Square is also working to transform the legal system. Its Legal Revolution program, created in partnership with Hamline Mitchell Law School, provides the incarcerated with a high quality legal education. They call it the “Prison to Law Pipeline.” One of its first participants, Maureen Onyelobi, is currently earning her degree from the state women’s prison in Shakopee and is the nation’s first incarcerated law student.

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