Innovation festival in Philly takes on social justice as well as business, the arts

City Rep. Sheila Hess speaks at a B.PHL event at Entercom, KYW Newsradio's parent company.
Photo credit Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A three-day festival to highlight Philadelphia's contribution to the innovation economy kicked off Tuesday morning, and the first topic was criminal justice reform. 

Innovation is as important to solving social problems as it is to success in business and the arts, so when entrepreneur Michael Rubin decided to take on criminal justice reform, he approached it the way he does everything.

"In business, you have the mentality like, whatever I set my mind to do I'm going to accomplish that or I'm going to die trying to accomplish that, and we took the same approach here," he said.

Rubin led the first discussion of the event, B. PHL, explaining that he got involved in the issue through his friendship with rapper Meek Mill, who notoriously went to jail over a questionable probation violation. 

First, Rubin got high rolling backers to start a nonprofit, then he looked at the gaps in what work was already being done.

"Just as it always happens in business, you find big open holes, you know in a competitive landscape, you're like 'wow, this is a big opportunity' and sure enough as destiny would have it, probation," he said.

At #B.PHL, ⁦@PhillyMayor⁩ says among the areas where #Innovations are needed is #CriminalJustice

— Pat Loeb (@PatLoeb) October 15, 2019

Rubin said 2.2 million people are in prison but nearly 8 million are on parole or probation, which is where he's put his focus, starting with Pennsylvania, where one in 35 people are on parole or probation because of what he says are laws that make no sense.

"We're going to work with Republicans and Democrats to change the laws, to make Pennsylvania's laws logical," Rubin said. 

The ultimate goal is reducing the probation population by one million over the next five years, he added. 

Editor's Note: Entercom, the parent company of KYW Newsradio, is partnering with the festival organizers to host several events throughout the week.