My 1% Pledge

pledgeIn 2014, Atlassian co-founded the Pledge 1% organization, which is a commitment by a company to donate 1% of its time, equity, and product to charity. This was announced broadly by Atlassian at Summit 2015, along with Adaptavist’s commitment to join Pledge 1%.

As part of our 1% pledge, staff at Adaptavist can work with a charity of their choice, and I have been working with Prisoner Visitation and Support (PVS) this year. I visit a few prisoners a month and spend an hour with each, just talking and getting to know them. One of the things that I like about PVS is that there’s no real agenda or ulterior motive; I’m not there to proselytize or try to get the prisoners to join up or do anything in particular. I’m just there to spend time with them.

And there’s a fair amount of research that indicates that prisoners who receive visits are much less likely to commit a crime once they get out. Having a regular visit helps them reintegrate with society. PVS specifically works to visit prisoners who wouldn’t otherwise receive a visit, so this seems like good work to do.

In addition, I’m conscious of how many people in the USA are in prison. 1 in 3 Americans have a police record, and 1% of our population is in prison. I’m not going to comment on whether or not all those people should be incarcerated, but it’s a sobering statistic. And if visits will help people not commit crimes once they get out, that seems good to me.

There is, admittedly, a religious component for me as well. A couple of years ago, my pastor was preaching on Matthew 25:35-46, in which we have Jesus saying:

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

And I thought to myself, “You know, we’re really good at giving people food and water, and donating clothing, and visiting people in the hospital… but we don’t do anything for prisoners.” I had read that passage numerous times, but had always skipped right over the prison part. I think a lot of Americans view prison in a capitalistic way: if you work hard and do good, you’ll be rewarded with money and stability, which is to say you get what you deserve, and that means that if you’re in prison then you’ve done something to deserve that and it serves you right. And while many prisoners do deserve to be there, that doesn’t change the fact that prisoners are human beings too, and we should treat them as such.

One of the comments I hear from other PVS volunteers, that they’re told by prisoners, is how meaningful it is to a prisoner for someone to visit and just treat them like a human being who is deserving of respect and dignity. While my faith inspires me to do this work, I’m not doing it to convert anyone, and we don’t even talk about religion unless the person I’m visiting brings it up and wants to. My goal is just to spend some time, and I hope it is a positive experience for the people I’m visiting.

So that’s my 1% pledge, and my part of Adaptavist’s good work. A bunch of people in the UK are working with Odyssians which looks like an awesome organization. I’m proud to be part of a company that prioritizes giving back, and especially that we do it in a way that’s not super publicized. It’s not about the credit, it’s about the work.

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