All Square is a social enterprise that was launched in 2018 by Emily Hunt Turner, a civil rights lawyer, with the aim of offering a true second chance at life post that is otherwise systematically denied through near insurmountable restrictions to necessities like housing and jobs. The restaurant serves up craft grilled cheese sandwiches and cups of tomato soup, but it is much more than just a place to eat. All Square provides nine-month fellowships for a rotating cohort of formerly incarcerated people. During the fellowship, employees receive a living wage, therapy sessions, professional development support, and access to funding opportunities.
To date, All Square has provided 48 fellowships, $2.8 million in wages ($1.6 million of which has gone directly to formerly incarcerated Minnesotans), 400 therapy sessions, and more than $60,000 in micro-grants for seed capital and debt alleviation.
All Square leverages entrepreneurship to sidestep the inability to access traditional employment. For example, Onika Goodluck, one of the original 14 fellows, had been in a cycle of on-and-off incarceration for 10 years after landing jobs only to have offers rescinded after her background check. Therapy made the biggest difference for her, as it helped her understand where she was at and make a positive shift in her life. Through the fellowship, Goodluck built out a business plan for what has since become O’s Kitchen, her Caribbean-American soul food catering company. Despite pandemic challenges, today the business requires zero promotion and is profitable entirely on word of mouth referrals alone.
Building on those successes, All Square has also expanded its efforts and now supports people currently in prison in Minnesota. Last year, All Square launched the Prison to Law Pipeline, the country’s first accredited and approved law degree and paralegal programs for incarcerated people. By taking advantage of the pivot to remote learning and testing, the Prison to Law Pipeline is helping those most impacted by the law to shape it and formalize the expertise of so-called jailhouse lawyers.
All Square’s ultimate goal is to help people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system become entrepreneurs, lawyers, and advocates who can push for more systemic change.
All Square's mission aligns with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8, which aims to promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. By providing fellowships to formerly incarcerated individuals, All Square is addressing the significant barriers to accessing employment and entrepreneurship that people with criminal records face, thereby promoting inclusivity and sustainability in the workforce.
In addition, All Square's Prison to Law Pipeline program helps people currently in prison develop professional skills that can lead to long-term employment opportunities and promote economic growth. All Square's approach also aligns with the vision of a global society that values equality and human rights.
By providing opportunities for people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system to become entrepreneurs and lawyers, All Square is promoting social and economic justice. The organization is also working to break down systemic barriers and promote a more equitable society by addressing the root causes of recidivism and advocating for criminal justice reform.
The organization’s work to provide employment, entrepreneurship, and legal education opportunities to people impacted by the criminal justice system aligns with SDG 8 and supports the vision of a more equitable and just global society.