Uptrust Closes $2M Seed Financing Round to Expand Technology That Will Help Lower Incarceration Rates, Achieve Better Outcomes for Individuals and Communities
Funding Will Enable Uptrust to Expand Into Probation; Reach 10 Million Justice-Involved People by 2025
San Francisco, CA (May 18, 2021) — Uptrust, the civic empowerment technology company working to keep people out of jail who shouldn’t be there, today announced the close of its $2m seed financing round, backed by investors the De-carceration Fund, Luminate, and Stand Together Ventures Lab.
A pioneer in bringing technology solutions to criminal justice challenges, Uptrust is disrupting the mass-incarceration model that has propelled the United States to become the world’s largest jailer. The San Francisco–based company provides a cost-effective communications platform that helps justice-involved people avoid technical violations of their probation or parole.
Over one million people are incarcerated annually for technical violations like missed probation appointments or court dates. To combat this trend, Uptrust has created a simple, scalable solution through a smartphone app that connects clients to their public defender or probation officer. Already, Uptrust has helped to ensure that 250,000 individuals nationwide were able to attend their court dates, marking a 50% reduction in failures-to-appear and millions of cost savings.
“We started Uptrust to focus on a particularly avoidable and egregious pain point in the criminal justice system: missed court dates that result in hundreds of thousands of people going to jail each year. As we have grown, we’ve seen that there are countless other types of preventable technical violations that ultimately cost local governments over $10 billion per year, with even more devastating costs for people and their families,” said Jacob Sills, Uptrust Chief Executive Officer and co-founder. “When people are incarcerated needlessly for arbitrary violations that pose no threat to public safety, they frequently suffer job, housing, and child custody losses. This needs to change — Uptrust is dedicated to making that change happen, raising this round from leading funders to support this growth.”
Uptrust’s user-first solution works by charging local governments a nominal monthly fee for the service (and never the end-user). This not only reduces the workloads of severely overburdened public defenders and probation officers, but significantly reduces overall costs: Uptrust is 90% less expensive than electronic monitoring and 99% less expensive than incarceration. Uptrust currently operates in 547 counties in 27 states, including 16 of the 25 most populous counties in the country, such as California’s Los Angeles County, Arizona’s Maricopa County, and Florida’s Miami-Dade County.
“Our user-first approach sets the foundation to eventually support our users beyond the criminal justice system, focusing first on building trust. Uptrust will never geo-locate or pass fees to the end user,” said Elijah Gwynn, Uptrust Chief Technology Officer and co-founder. “We are dedicated to supporting people beyond the criminal justice system, connecting them to financial services, preventative healthcare, and employment opportunities. As we work together to reduce the burdens and costs of the criminal justice system, we can create a more equitable and fair system for all.”
The key funders supporting Uptrust include leading social justice and civic change investors working to make our society more equitable: the De-carceration Fund, the impact investor focused on highly innovative enterprises that are working to eliminate the suffering caused by the U.S. criminal justice system; Luminate, a global philanthropic organization focused on empowering people and institutions to work together to build just and fair societies; and Stand Together Ventures Lab, the early-stage venture that is part of the philanthropic organization Stand Together of the Koch Network.
Here is what Uptrust funders had to say about this exciting new technology:
“As impact investors, we are constantly looking for opportunities to secure both positive social impact and profit. Uptrust has identified a solution to a systemic flaw in the criminal justice system that through improved communication can accomplish both. We are proud to invest in Uptrust and play a role in this positive systemic change. For every positive intervention we can make in someone’s life, helping them to avoid technical violations and hold onto their housing, their job, their childcare, we are moving the needle on improving the U.S. criminal justice system,” said Chris Bentley, Managing Principal of the De-carceration Fund.
“Unlike many service providers in the criminal justice space, Uptrust’s business model is grounded in the belief that by prioritizing the rights and needs of affected communities, they can keep people out of jail and increase success for returning citizens. We’re excited to support their work to build a future where we no longer use the criminal justice system as a tool for oppression in the United States,” said McKenzie Smith, Principal, US Investments at Luminate.
“We have been actively evaluating the community supervision space, looking for an ethical business model. We had not yet made an investment before we came across Uptrust: a scalable, easy-to-use communications platform connecting justice-involved individuals with their attorneys, probation and parole staff, and other supervisory officials, without ever geolocating or charging the end user. With Uptrust, we can equip people with the resources they need to get their lives back on track,” said Sihyun Choi, Managing Director at Stand Together Ventures Lab.
Based in San Francisco, CA and Northampton, MA, Uptrust is a cost-effective and user-first communications platform that provides justice-involved individuals with accessible tools to avoid violating their probation or supervision by staying up to date on their appointments and obligations. Uptrust has proved to keep low-income defendants out of jail on bench warrants and technical violations, while also saving attorneys time and reducing the cost to the municipality or county. Uptrust is supported by individuals and foundations including but not limited to the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Inherent Foundation, Schmidt Futures, RFK Human Rights, The Heising-Simons Foundation, The Redlich Horwitz Foundation, Decarceration Fund, Stand Together and Luminate.
To learn more about Uptrust, please visit www.Uptrust.co.