According to the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) one out of 100 Americans is in jail or prison with a total population of 2.3 million incarcerated people. Wow! Those are huge numbers!
Life in prison creates a cycle - commit a crime, go to prison, get released, commit a crime, go back to prison. This cycle only helps to perpetuate crime and is extremely costly to society as well.
The Prison Entrepreneurship Program looks as prisoners as an interesting business model of entrepreneurs. Prisoners are often drug-dealers, hustlers and gang members and there is a type of entrepreneurial spirit involved with this type of crime. What the Prison Entrepreneurship Program proposes, is to tap this business potential and turn it into legitimate business enterprises, leveraging their proven entrepreneurial skill-sets to inspire an even deeper change.
"We believe empowering inmates to strive for total life transformation is the only answer for the problem of recidivism—it is the only answer period."
We accomplish this mission by linking top business and academic talent with program participants through an MBA-level curriculum, mentor relationships and straight-up entrepreneurial passion.
Part of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program is the reprogramming aspect. According to PEP, in order to incite lasting change, a holistic approach to self-transformation is essential. Included in the reprogramming process, staff of PEP teach rigorous business skills, life skills such as moral decision making, the importance of spiritual discipline, how to treat fellow workers and what a solid employer is looking for in hiring a potential employee.
Another aspect of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program is creating a fraternity or brotherhood of cooperation. PEP emphasizes the importance of working together to achieve a common positive goal. The group helps to push each other to achieve and they support each other during times of struggle. Often, these bonds are lifetime.
The Prison Entrepreneurship Program was established in 2004 and is currently a 501© nonprofit organization based out of Houston, Texas. The program is made up of volunteers, ex-offenders, pastors, MBAs and executives who have a strong vision to help change prison education policies.
To become accepted into the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, one must submit an application for the Business Plan Competition. PEP searches throughout all of the prisons throughout Texas to handpick men with "transformed hearts, impeccable work ethics and entrepreneurial potential.
Applicants endure an intense application process; then the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) transfers the eligible, pre-release men to the Cleveland Correctional Facility in Cleveland Texas, where PEP operates.
The soon to be released prisoners then undergo a rigourous four-to-five month program that includes business plan advising, constructing pro-forma income statements, profit margins, taking over 40 business exams and they must pitch their business concept over 200 times to top level business executives.
For their final exam, participants deliver 30-minute oral business plan presentations to a judging panel of CEOs and venture capitalists from across the nation. The graduation ceremony tops off the Business Plan Competition event as everyone celebrates, and for the majority of the class, this is their first commencement ceremony ever.
The Prison Entrepreneurship Program encourages family traditions, love, hard work and dedication to becoming a business entrepeneur.
To find out more how you can help with this innovative and successful prison education program, please read more here.
"PEP has taken a chance on the unlovable, the murderer, the gang leader, and the drug dealer and witnessed miraculous metamorphosis; proof positive that punishment does not deter crime. But rebuilding the human spirit not only deters crime; it also enhances society as a whole."