John Koufos

I was a successful criminal defense lawyer—and an alcoholic. In 2012, I was involved in a non-fatal hit-and-run accident while driving drunk and went to jail. While in prison, I learned the other side of the system. 

After being paroled in late 2013, I got a second chance to contribute to society. Roughly 650,000 Americans will be released from prison in 2019, but close to 70 percent are expected to re-offend within three years. I want to change that. 

While working for the New Jersey Reentry Corporation, I recruited about 70 pro bono lawyers to help the reentry community clear old tickets and warrants and restore more than 400 drivers’ licenses. These basic steps removed tremendous barriers to people finding jobs.

Between September 2015 and August 2016, 63 percent of our 1,200 clients found work. ​The recidivism rate of those we served held steady at around 20 percent — compared with a national average of 76 percent. 

Now, in partnership with the Stand Together community, I’m working to replicate and improve upon those results in many more states so that deserving people have a second chance.

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