Whew!  It’s been a year.

From Our Executive Director

2020 was a pretty interesting year!
Susan Mason shares the ups and the downs and how Covid has accelerated our work by making it abundantly clear – we must have an inclusive recovery.

Please read an excerpt of
The Get FIT Guide below! 

Current Projects

Alicia Atkinson

Managing Director

The Prosperity Agenda

The Inclusive Recovery Project

In early January 2020, our Program Officer, Cat Martin, at J.P Morgan Chase (JPMC), introduced us to What’s Next Washington (WNW). There was immediate alignment between Us...

The Prosperity Agenda (TPA)works with directly impacted to design pathways to economic and racial justice, and shift policy and programs.

TPA and WNW partners on The Inclusive Recovery Project (IRP), which is partially funded by JPMC. This data gathering project will be a first of its kind and will help us remove employment barriers that keep people with conviction histories from achieving long term economic stability.

 WNW knows where and how to change attitudes, practices, and mindsets to ensure that people with a conviction history are not punished beyond their legal sentence.  

 We at TPA are inspired by WNW’s mission, courage, and passion. We view our collaboration as a way to help change our society of punishment into a society of opportunity.

Gary Smith

Executive Vice President

Lease Crutcher Lewis

Clark Construction / Lease Crutcher Lewis Joint Venture – Partnering for an Inclusive Workforce Project


We want to discover how the construction industry can be more inclusive of underserved populations, including those who are formerly incarcerated, and help address any employment barriers identified in their study.

Our Founding Donors and a pleasant surprise

Amy J. Stephson

Employment Attorney and Coach

The Matching Grant

In the summer of 2017, Roz Solomon told me about an organization she and Sue Mason were creating to help formerly incarcerated people. I didn’t know much more than that, but I was in.

Why? Because I saw helping formerly incarcerated people as a concrete way to address societal problems of racism, poverty, hopelessness, and injustice. 

Nearly two years later, in April 2019, I made another significant gift to What’s Next, this time to hire a grant writer. This too was a leap of faith, but I knew that without grant funding, it is very difficult for small nonprofits to get off the ground.

My faith was well-placed. What’s Next has taken off since its focus evolved to encouraging and enabling employers to hire and retain formerly incarcerated people. In this mostly unchartered territory, What’s Next is filling a real need: Many employers are urgently looking for good employees, but are scared to hire people with conviction histories. WNW has developed specific tools for employers and it is partnering with other organizations to scale its efforts. 

If I sound like a salesperson for What’s Next Washington, I am – and I’m ready to see it continue to thrive and grow.

Evelyne Rozner


Matching the Matching Grant – And off WNW went!

I’ve been involved in non-profits for decades and I’ve learned that there is no substitute for lived experience when crafting solutions to social ills...
So, I was intrigued when Roz, and then Sue, walked me through What’s Next Washington’s premise: an organization run by the formerly incarcerated to specifically address the stigma and employment barriers they face in getting their life back on the rails.

Jobs matter yet most every profession throws up needless barriers that keep those who have been to prison from accessing and keeping one. This is doubly pernicious given how BIPOC men and women are over-represented in our carceral system.

What’s Next Washington offered me a venue to change the narrative – for the formerly incarcerated and for our society – from the get go. I/we have been honored to help.

Jordan Babineaux

Former NFL Defensive Back

NFL Analyst & Broadcaster

Business Owner, Assure Ride

THANK YOU seattle seahawks for AWARDING WNW the 2020 Seattle Seahawks Players Equality & Justice For All Action Fund grant

Jordan Babineaux and Mario Bailey were instrumental ...

in promoting our work! We want to thank Jordan, Mario, and the Seattle Seahawks for believing in the mission of developing long term economic stability for the formerly incarcerated.

Driving the Momentum into 2021

Roslyn Solomon

Co-Founder and Board President

What’s Next Washington

A Message from Roz Solomon

Roz Solomon has a message of thanks for our volunteers, supporters, and donors and a request for support in 2021.

Our Goal for this giving season is to raise $60,000

Donations will help us create a robust online presence! This digital platform will enable us to reach local and national employers at scale and provide them a roadmap for building a diverse and productive workforce.

This dedicated website will include:

  • The Get FIT Guide hiring manual
  • Technical support services
  • Webinars and bias trainings
  • Customized talent sourcing
  • Access to third-party, wrap-around services
  • Data gathering and analysis

With this digital toolkit, employers can move to a, “yes you got the job!” and stay there after pulling a background check. Staying at “yes” will help us overcome the inequitable economic downturn we’re facing and move us toward the inclusive recovery we all want, need, and deserve.

Please consider a gift to What’s Next Washington this year.
Donate online today, or please mail your check to:

What’s Next Washington
1620 43rd Ave. E., #16B
Seattle, WA 98112

Excerpt From WNW’s get fit guide

Get FIT™ Guide (Formerly Incarcerated Talent) 

CHANGING TIMES AND CHANGING POLICY - Evidence shows that people with conviction histories are loyal, hard-working, and driven to succeed. The data also shows that they pose low safety risk, and when welcomed and supported, are net contributors to workplace productivity.

Given this data, employers would do well to shift their approach to hiring candidates with conviction histories, especially those who have been to jail or prison. Policies and processes must be based on data and peer-reviewed research. Doing otherwise, is simply discriminatory.

In some cases, laws, regulations, and occupational licensing rules restrict employers. It is time for a thorough, systems-based review and repeal or amendment of these hiring barriers. There is no evidence that they keep us safe. To the contrary, the information shows that they keep qualified people from working in the careers of their choice, they keep employers from the talent they need, and they harm, rather than enhance, public safety.

To make the necessary changes, employers need better tools to recruit, hire, and retain job candidates with conviction histories. This Guide provides those tools. In addition, the Guide describes ways employers and people with conviction histories can work together to build the case for regulatory change.

The Guide is divided into two major sections: Part 1 describes the impact of mass incarceration on employment. It delves into the “how we got here,” “why to hire,” and “what to expect.” Part 2 addresses the “how to” of hiring people with conviction histories. We provide practical tools for bringing on qualified talent while maintaining workplace safety and productivity.

About Us — What’s Next Washington
What’s Next Washington (WNW) is a nonprofit organization of formerly incarcerated individuals and allies working to help people with conviction histories reintegrate into society and achieve long-term economic stability. We believe that everyone is entitled to a life of dignity and full participation in society, that those closest to a problem are closest to the solutions, and that stakeholder collaboration is the most efficient and innovative way to solve complex problems.

Our mission and values led us to develop our Partnering for an Inclusive Workforce Project (PIWP). Designed by those directly impacted by incarceration, the PIWP helps employers recruit, hire, and retain FIT™ (Formerly Incarcerated Talent) and others with conviction histories.

A New Way to Approach an Old Problem
This Guide is written by a formerly incarcerated person, Susan Mason, and a former employment law judge, Roz Solomon. They bring their unique lived experience and knowledge with them to this work.

The Guide is designed for HR leaders, recruiters, talent specialists, interviewers, hiring managers, and others who want to use the most current tools for evaluating candidates with conviction histories.

The contents of this Guide arose from conversations with employers of all sizes, from all sectors, during What’s Next Washington’s workshops called employer convenings. The four-hour sessions have included input from HR and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Directors, employment and general counsel, corporate executives, and community partners. Almost all of them want to change their hiring practices, but need more information to safely and appropriately do so.

We believe this Guide will prove to be a useful tool to help you change recruiting, hiring, and retention policies and practices within your organization, and help you build a diverse and productive workplace.

The Guide is divided into two sections. The first section is primarily informational. It describes the growth of the background check industry and the ballooning of employer and government-based restrictions on hiring people with conviction histories. An exploration of the data will help dispel fears about hiring people with violent, financial, or sex convictions. Finally, it illustrates how the unequal impact of mass incarceration on Black, Brown and Native communities has made it difficult for employers to meet their DEI goals.

The second section provides a manual, with detailed tools and recommendations on how to successfully recruit, hire, and retain people with conviction histories. The questions and checklists are designed to help employers build a diverse and engaged workforce and maintain a safe and productive workplace.

Increase Opportunities
People with conviction histories exist on a spectrum — just as all people do. They range from having little experience or training to being career-ready and career-capable. From janitors and clerks, to attorneys and endocrinologists, each should be fairly assessed for the position you are trying to fill.

Questions Answered by This Guide

Why should I consider hiring these candidates?
In the U.S., at current rates, 100 million adults will have a conviction history by 2030, which means you either will not be able to avoid hiring people from this demographic or you will be significantly limiting your pool of available talent to hire. You need the ability to properly evaluate job candidates with conviction histories.

What’s the risk?
It’s less than you think. People with conviction histories are motivated, high-performing and loyal employees. In Chapter X, we provide data that shows people with conviction histories almost never pose a risk at the workplace. In Chapter X, we show why concerns about insurance coverage and negligent hiring liability are generally unfounded and show what employers can do to protect themselves from negligent hiring claims.

How worried should I be about the type of crime?
In Chapter X, we explain why people with a record of violent, financial, or sex offense convictions almost never pose a risk of reoffending at the workplace. We also provide specific examples of what information you should seek in an interview to ensure you’re making an informed and safe choice.

How do I evaluate the work history of someone who was recently released from jail or prison?
People work in prison. In fact, people can be promoted, supervise others, and lead teams. We explain in Chapter X.

How can our company successfully integrate people with conviction histories into the workplace?
Employers need to be prepared if they wish to benefit from the dynamism and creativity that diversity brings to the workplace. In Chapter X, we explain how to create a welcoming culture and increase retention through engagement programs, third-party wrap-around support services, and protection of employee privacy.

How can I do my part to address systemic inequality?
Over-incarceration and criminalization is its own problem. In the U.S., one in three Black men, and one in six Latino men, will be incarcerated in their lifetimes. Given this level of disproportionate over-incarceration of people of color, you can make an impact and meet your DEI goals by recruiting and retaining FIT in your workforce.

We believe this Guide will prove to be an invaluable resource as you build the diverse, safe, and productive workplace you want.

Keep the distinction between two frequently used terms in mind as you read the Get FIT Guide: People with conviction histories and formerly Incarcerated talent, or FIT.

FIT is a designation for anyone who has served time in jail or prison. The great majority of convictions in the United States are for minor offenses and do not require time in jail or prison. Punishments for these low-level offenses are fines, house arrest, electronic monitoring, probation, or a combination.

While not all people with conviction histories could be classified as FIT, anyone convicted in a court of law can be classified as a person with a conviction history.

All people with conviction histories are subjected to collateral consequences that impair their ability to obtain an education, secure housing, or find employment long after they have served their sentences.

Please see the Glossary for a more comprehensive definition of criminal law terms and definitions. You will find links to this Glossary throughout the guide.

COPYRIGHT 2020 What’s Next Washington 



Employer Reactions to Our Work

Hank Perret

Retired Tech CEO

Austin / Travis County, Texas

Flying in From Austin Texas

It appeared that WNW was doing what I was charged to do as Fair Chance Hiring Champion for the Roundtable. I flew to Seattle to attend their employer’s convening to learn more...

I was made aware of What’s Next Washington (WNW) by one of my colleagues at the Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable, who had met Susan Mason at an event in Chicago.

I absorbed the following:
WNW is committed to collaborating with employers to develop and implement data-based hiring practices to recruit, hire and retain formerly incarcerated talent (FIT)

  • WNW uses three key strategies to shift the system
    Collaborating with employers to remove barriers that contribute to recidivism and underemployment.
  • Producing media and communications designed to change perceptions of those with stigmatized identities, especially those with conviction histories.
  • Building leadership capacity in people with conviction histories so they can better advocate for systemic reforms.

I asked them how they got employers to the table? I struggled with this in Austin. The answer was “find an ally in each industry you want to target and get them to bring their industry colleagues to the table”. I’ve used that strategy to success in Austin.

I would recommend anyone interested in this work attend one of WNW’s employer convenings.

Tom Stancik

Sr Territory Manager

GAF Materials Corporation

From Reluctant Attendee to an Employer Partner

I am a believer in the notion that 'things happen for a reason'. When I attended your construction convening last year, it was simply as a fact finding favor for my business partner. I had no idea who WNW was, and quite frankly, barely had the time to commit to the meeting...

Once I heard your amazing story, and the stories of others, I knew that this was an organization that I wanted to become involved with. The roofing industry is challenged with labor shortages at every level. Your efforts to give people a second chance is perfectly aligned with our efforts to identify and train qualified roofing professionals. 

 The synergy between the GAF Roofing Academy & WNW is absolutely perfect. It is my understanding that we have already begun to train transitioning individuals, and our future plans to continue these efforts will be ongoing. 

Thank you for all that you do to support and place these deserving individuals into the workforce. 

Viki Marivic Bamba Chennault

Director of Public Affairs

Clark Construction Group

Flying in from San Francisco – An employer panelist

Clark has a longstanding commitment of giving back to the communities in which we work. A cornerstone of that commitment is to maximize opportunities for members of local underserved communities...
to work on our projects through innovative workforce training programs and partnerships.
Serving as a panelist during the employer convening hosted by What’s Next Washington was both enlightening and encouraging as it allowed for a holistic discussion with like minded professionals and employers in construction regarding the social and economic benefits of supporting formerly incarcerated talent.

Carolyn Holtzen

Research & Product Chief of Staff

London Stock Exchange Group

Seattle U E-MBA Students Team Up with WNW

Seattle University’s Executive MBA Program classmates Carolyn Holtzen (London Stock Exchange), Dave Hall (Seattle Children’s Hospital), Jordan Babineaux (AssureRide, former Seattle Seahawks, KIRO 7 Sports Announcer), and Kristan Novotny (Expeditors International) were part of a project team tasked with working on a criminal justice reform project.

Dave Hall made this incredible video as an invitation to other executives to attend our employer convening in March 2020. We had over 90 RSVP’s and over 70 companies attending. Unfortunately, we had to cancel that convening due to COVID. We look forward to hosting it in 2021!

Jordan Babineaux and Sue Mason are interviewed on KIRO Radio. “Former Seahawks safety Jordan Babineaux got involved with What’s Next Washington after he was forced to discriminate against formerly incarcerated people at his medical transportation company, Assure Ride. When regulations about criminal histories kept Babineaux from hiring a man he felt was the best fit for the job, he knew something needed to change.”

Messages from our Community Partners

Troy Osaki

Account Manager


From a No to a Yes – in Tech

UnLoop connects formerly incarcerated people to thriving wage jobs in tech. What’s Next Washington helped us work with employers reluctant to hire our graduates...
In one particular instance, we struggled to find placement for a participant who experienced 20+ years of incarceration for a violent offense. He had excellent technical skills and was offered a salaried position that included a $10,000 signing bonus. The offer was rescinded after the completion of his background check.

We eventually met a local tech firm open to working with us but hesitant about hiring an individual with a violent offense. What’s Next Washington enthusiastically supported Unloop in navigating how to talk through the company’s concerns. WNW equipped us with quantitative and qualitative data to demystify the myth that hiring formerly incarcerated people, specifically those with violent offenses, is a risk to the company. WNW provided us with guidance on how to explain the importance of breaking down barriers for those marginalized by a conviction and how this strengthens and grows businesses.

In the end, What’s Next Washington helped Unloop secure a full-time salaried position with benefits for our participant. He’s now a professional software developer in the tech industry after 20 years of incarceration.

We’re grateful for What’s Next Washington’s extraordinary support and for what they helped us accomplish. We plan to continue working with them in order to further expand access to thriving wage jobs for formerly incarcerated individuals and wholeheartedly recommend partnering with them.


Director of Operations

UW Health Sciences IPE

Changing Outcomes in Healthcare

At the time I learned about What’s Next Washington, I was helping develop programming for health sciences students at the University of Washington (UW).
I was working on helping students learn more about mental health and about the skills they would need to reduce bias and combat stigma in healthcare settings. We discussed collaborations between WNW and UW, and I felt immediately inspired and energized that WNW’s program, The Stigma We Carry, could fit this need for future health care professionals.

I appreciate and respect this organization and the people behind it. I have worked closely with WNW to develop curriculum for health sciences students and to help change the way that patient care is delivered within the hospital and out in the community. This has led to exciting projects and outcomes that impact both student and clinician perceptions of people with histories of incarceration, housing insecurity, addiction, and mental illness.

Each time WNW is involved in my work, I truly believe it is higher quality and higher impact than if they weren’t there.

The future for healthcare is collaborating with directly impacted organizations. Health care providers are no longer the sole experts in an interaction, and the voices of patients and community members are crucial for the delivery of high quality care.

The personal experiences of the organization’s staff and volunteers is harnessed in a powerful way to effectively make this kind of multi-level change. Their broad focus includes changing individual attitudes as well as institutional, local, and national policies. It is impressive and impactful.

Thank you for all you do. It’s truly been a highlight of the last couple of years to connect and collaborate with WNW. I’ve learned so much, and just plain enjoy you all! I hope there’s more to come as we get back into the swing of things in this wild world.

Patrick Arney

Program Director

Weld Seattle

Jay Pershing

Program Manager

Weld Seattle

What’s Next Washington Collaborates with Weld Works

Our community partner, Weld Works, discusses their experience at our convenings and how WNW has helped find work opportunities for WELD particpants during the employment downturn during COVID.

Tiheba Bain

Women Against Mass Incarceration

David Heppard

Freedom Project

Sue Mason

What’s Next Washington

Three Formerly Incarcerated Executive Director’s Discuss “The Work”

Collaboration, communities, being values driven, and nurturing our relationships with each other – above all else.

Board & Staff Messages

Maripaz Ferrer

Senior Program Manager


Board Treasurer

Mari shares why she is a WNW Board member
From the Philippines, to one of Wall Street’s first women analysts, Mari has a passion for for making sure the voiceless are heard.

MerriLynn Leslie

Director of Projects

What’s Next Washington

Our Newest Staff Member

In September of 2020 we were able to hire merrilynn leslie. she is formerly incarcerated and...

she shares why working at WNW is more than just a job – it’s personal.

Lucy – Loo

Administrative Support

What’s Next Washington

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