When he was released from prison in 2013 more than a decade after being wrongfully convicted for homicide, Brian Ferguson confronted a challenge faced by thousands of inmates who return to their communities after incarceration, reports Next City magazine. Nearly penniless, lacking an employment history, and having missed the digital revolution while locked in prison, Ferguson found himself without many of the skills he needed to succeed on the outside and at a loss for how to begin to acquire them. “I was given a piece of paper with a bunch of names of groups that helped with education and classes and employment opportunities,” he says. “It was a single piece of paper, and it was so old the binder it came out of literally had dust on it. I'd say a third of the organizations that were on the list were either transitioning into something else or were no longer active at all.”
Ferguson hopes to help formerly incarcerated people crowdsource successful reentry. Ferguson has conceived “Angel's List,” a web-based clearinghouse of information on reentry resources that he says has the potential to “completely revolutionize the service referral industry” for inmates reentering society after long prison terms. In October, he was chosen as one of 10 fellows by Halcyon Incubator, a Washington, D.C.-based program for social entrepreneurs. For the next 14 months, Ferguson will live and work in the organization's Georgetown headquarters, getting professional and technical support as well as access to potential investors. If all goes according to plan, he will begin piloting Angel's List in the D.C. area and New York City in 2016, before taking the platform national.