Worth Rises x KidsMates
By David Martoma, Age 11
Today, KidsMates speaks with Bianca Tylek about prison commercialization and the exploitation of incarcerated persons. Bianca founded the national nonprofit Worth Rises in 2017 to dismantle the prison industry and to end the exploitation of those it touches. A self-described “prison abolitionist”, Bianca dreams of “a world built on care not cages.”
Bianca’s well-recognized passion for public service [*see footnote at end of article] stems from her connection to the justice system and her childhood adversities. Bianca used that adversity to fuel her meteoric rise through an education at Columbia University and Harvard Law School, as well as work as an investment analyst at Citigroup and Morgan Stanley. Soon, she realized those same skills could add tremendous value to the nonprofit sector, and Worth Rises was born.
Today, there’s so much going on at Worth Rises. Between slaying prison industry titans and securing free phone calls for incarcerated people, Bianca launched “The Prison Industry: The Curriculum” (“The Curriculum” in short). The Curriculum is a 15-week free, public course providing a deep dive into how America profits from its massive prison industry (#PunishmentProfit).
In full disclosure, I was selected as an inaugural Fellow for The Curriculum. Each week, I find myself immersed in thought-provoking materials that have helped me make sense of my experiences having an incarcerated father for most of my life. I realize there’s still so much that I don’t know about prisons or the many behind-the-scenes actors who profited from my father’s incarceration. I’m looking forward to learning more today! Please welcome my guest, Bianca Tylek.
David: Hello, Bianca. Thank you for joining KidsMates today. I can’t wait to share more about The Curriculum with our readers. But, why don’t we start with your personal story as it relates to the criminal justice system and Worth Rises?
Bianca: That’s a really large question that we could spend over a half-hour on alone (smiling), so where do you want to start?
David: Let’s start with Worth Rises. How did the organization start?
Bianca: Sure, I founded Worth Rises back in 2017 when I realized a gap in the criminal justice movement in challenging the financial interests of both corporations and governments in mass incarceration and mass surveillance. My background meant that I had a very unique set of skills, particularly having come out of finance and as an attorney, to really pinpoint and address some of those abuses by the prison industry. That’s how Worth Rises started.
David: Cool origin story! I’m hearing “Liam Neeson” in your voice - “a very unique set of skills…” What is the most important thing you or Worth Rises has done in the last year to help children or families facing incarceration?