Skip to content

Health App Aims to Help People Find Wellness and Success After Prison

Health App Aims to Help People Find Wellness and Success After Prison
Health App Aims to Help People Find Wellness and Success After Prison

Each year, approximately 600,000 people are released from state and federal prisons. For most, what comes next is not a smooth transition. 

For Jermaine Fields and his wife, Katy Kelly, a tough parole officer and unnecessary restrictions made the experience all the more challenging.

Two days before Jermaine’s release from prison, he was told he couldn’t return home on parole or have any contact with Katy. Instead he had to parole to a homeless shelter, going against the original plan Jermaine had worked on with his prison counselor. Effectively, it made it impossible for Jermaine to see his children, and he ended up violating parole while trying to spend time with his kids in a park. 

“It had a huge impact on us. The plan was based on me coming home and being around my family, and then they took that from me,” Jermaine says. “They took away my entire support system. And they also took a bed from a homeless person who needed it.”

Katy saw how difficult the process was and how un-individualized it was, leaving people — and their families — at very high risk. 

“I realized how much human bias is in the system, because parole officers have almost complete control. There's very little resources someone on parole can go to for help if they are being treated unfairly by their parole officer,” Katy adds. 

IMG_1744 LargeThe time that followed was turbulent for Katy and Jermaine’s family. They lost their housing twice, Jermaine was not allowed to go to the hospital to witness the birth of his child, and he returned to jail four times as a result of technical violations of his parole.

“I witnessed first hand the long-term impacts of parental incarceration,” says Katy. “Kids are six times more likely to end up in prison. It isn’t fair.”

So she and Jermaine set out to be a part of the solution.

They co-founded Total Reentry Solutions (TRS), a digital health platform to help support the reentry process from prison and to break the cycle of incarceration. 

Jermaine with his daughter, Sainte. Photo courtesy of TRS


A Health Platform Fueled by Compassion

People coming home from prison are at high-risk for health issues. Sixty percent of them have two or more chronic health issues, and every year of incarceration takes two years off an incarcerated person’s life expectancy and one year off their loved ones’ life expectancy. 

“There aren’t a lot of things in place to help with reentry,” says Adam Grant, TRS’s Chief Human Officer. Adam spent 27 years incarcerated for a bank robbery and is now “intimately invested in the ideas of reentry and humanizing a system that has been dehumanized from the start,” he says. Adam is also Executive Director of the nonprofit, A Brighter Way.

TRS - Katy and Adam sxsw
Katy and Adam at SXSW, photo courtesy of TRS

Many people who are incarcerated might not have the best relationship with the healthcare system, Adam points out. He says that people get “beaten down in the prison system,” and learn not to trust doctors. In his own experience, he had to pay $11,000 on dental work because of poor dental care in prison, which many incarcerated people experience. 

During reentry, people automatically get Medicaid for 90 days and many keep it well after, but then they often don’t understand how to navigate the system, says Adam. 

“You’re not prepared to come out into the world, and then you’re punished for it,” Adam says. 

TRS is a platform designed to address these problems by offering the resources for people to learn what’s available and ultimately feel like they don’t have to do it alone. Adam says this helps people navigate reentry, get the care they need, and maintain their dignity. 

TRS - mobile app message
Photo courtesy of TRS

With that dignity and compassion at the forefront, TRS connects these support systems in a personalized manner. Katy says that the platform creates a reentry plan that incorporates parole guidelines, available services, and personal goals. This includes connecting people to a primary care provider, peer mentor, housing specialist, and more. This “care team” is there to help them reach their goals. 

“We compile all this information to create a holistic picture, but our secret sauce is the individualization,” says Katy. 

Every situation is unique, and if basic needs can’t be met (like housing, for example, in Jermaine’s case) then it affects overall health. To help better support the people it serves, TRS uses data and AI on the backend to analyze gaps in the system and see opportunities for support. 

They also use AI and machine learning on an individual level, constantly analyzing the systems’ interactions with the Returning Citizen and the outcomes that are associated with them. This helps TRS understand users on an individual basis, similar to the TikTok For You page feature. It’s both a personalized and an evidence-based approach to wellness. 

TRS - mobile app
Image courtesy of TRS

To spearhead the effort, the company recently hired a CTO, Mark Voldeck, who has over 20 years of experience in development and specializes in database and AI/machine learning. 

“I hitched myself to this [TRS] because it democratizes data, and creates an opportunity for people to be involved in what the actual data is and to share it with who they choose to share it with,” says Adam. 

Additionally, this helps create a fuller picture of what the data actually is. Currently, it’s difficult to pull data from jails because it’s not entered in a uniform system. TRS helps get a more holistic view of the data, and in turn helps people take ownership of their story as they reenter society. 

Safe and Just annual Dinner, from left to right: Tony Gant (Nation Outside), Katy, Ashley Goldon (PHD and Criminal Justice Reentry Reform Leader) and Jermaine. Photo courtesy of TRS

“The data is held hostage by the Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. They keep telling the same dehumanized story about recidivism. But recidivism doesn't have anything to do with people. It is a direct impact of the politicians,” says Adam. 

Humanizing the data, the process, and the services — and packaging it in one, easy-to-use app — is what TRS is all about. 


From Idea to MVP and Beyond

Though still in its early stages, TRS has grown a lot over the past months thanks to the help of the Michigan startup community and reentry grassroots communities. Katy is not a technical founder, but that didn’t stop her from finding a way to turn her idea into a reality. 

TRS - Michigan Tech Week
Katy and Vanessa Lane of Better Play Studios and Keith Chaney of PEADBO, photo courtesy of TRS

Jerry Norris, head of The Fledge in Lansing, told her about a pitch competition put on by the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP). Katy had no idea what a pitch competition was; she just needed money for housing. But Jerry helped her hone her ideas and learn how to pitch TRS. 

“Jerry is actually doing inclusive entrepreneurship,” says Katy. “His wife was bringing me diapers and feeding my kid dinner when Jerry was teaching me how to pitch. It’s the people who really care who have helped me so much.”

TRS won $50,000 from the Song Foundation in a pitch competition at Michigan Tech Week. They teamed up with the Apple Developer Academy at MSU to build the technology. They’ve found support through Spartan Innovations, Newlab, Johnnie and Alexa Turnage from Black Tech Saturdays, as well as Michigan Founders Fund, which Katy says has been one of the “organizations that have been the most authentic and helpful.”

TRS - Katy and Apple team
Photo of the original Apple team: Courtney, Steven, Karon, and Izzy with Katy. Photo courtesy of TRS

They’ve piloted a minimal viable product with A Brighter Way that mimics what the platform will be like. TRS plans to officially launch on June 28th at a reentry wellness event hosted at Newlab. They are still looking for vendors, co-hosts and sponsors for the event. 

As they continue to grow their services, TRS is looking to connect with more reentry programs and medicaid managed care plans. Check out more details on the event page if you want to get your organization involved in the platform. 

TRS wellness event

“We're just trying to help knock down the barriers that are keeping people from reentering society. These are knowledgeable, smart, innovative people,” says Katy. “Regardless of how you feel about formerly incarcerated people and what they deserve, there's one thing that we can't deny: they're getting out. We’re not changing that. But we are trying to offer support to help them forge their path to a better quality of life for themselves and their families.” 

To learn more about TRS and follow their journey, visit



Never Miss An Opportunity