Feeling Peppy: Prison Entrepreneurship Program

3 Jan

The United States, being a nation of laws, must enforce them to keep our relative peace. By doing so prisons were created to house the varying degree of law breakers. Some of them are there for “small” crimes others for things much, much worse. Over half of those who are released commit a crime and go back to prison. As noted in Wikipedia, “A 2002 study survey showed that among nearly 275,000 prisoners released in 1994, 67.5% were rearrested within 3 years, and 51.8% were back in prison.” [1]

The cycle habitual return to crime (ie. recidivism), is a problem for society as a whole. People who go to prison are rarely rehabilitated. This is a key to breaking the cycle of recidivism. Is there anything being done to creating the key? Enter the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, PEP.

PEP is a entrepreneurship program focused on refocusing the minds and hearts of men in prison. It takes the same basic business concepts they were using for their illegal businesses and refocuses them into creating legitimate business which actually contribute to their communities. From the About Us page on the PEP website [2]:

“… Former Wall Street investor Catherine Rohr founded PEP in May of 2004 when she toured a prison and noticed that executives and inmates had more in common than most would think. They know how to manage others to get things done. Even the most unsophisticated drug dealers inherently understand business concepts such as competition, profitability, risk management and proprietary sales channels. For both executives and inmates, passion is instinctive. …”

There is, of course, some initial and understandable skepticism of any program which claims to reform those who have been in prison. The Prison Entrepreneurship Program has the results to prove it is a legitimate and successful model. Some statistics from the Results page on the PEP site [3]:

3-Year Recidivism
Texas: Around 25%
PEP: Less than 5%

Employment
Within 30 days of release: 70%
Within 90 days of release: 100%
Average Starting Wage: $9.51/hour
Average Time to Find Job: 26 days

Entrepreneurship
# PEP Graduate Businesses: At least 106

Housing
# PEP Transition Homes in Houston: 2
# PEP Transition Homes in Dallas: 1
Total Capacity of Homes: 41 beds
% Grads Released to PEP Housing: 65%

Outreach in 2011
Family Members Visiting Prison: Nearly 400
Executive Volunteers in Prison: Over 400
Business Plan Advisors: Over 200

Where prisons are failing, PEP is succeeding. The Prison Entrepreneurship Program is setting a model for others to use and implement. It is also raising the standard for real rehabilitation of those in prison. The net results are more than financial. The healing of families and raising children with solid morals and values makes society better and stronger.

Not every person in prison is able to get into the PEP program. There will always be those in the prison system who are beyond rehabilitation and need to stay behind bars for the safety of society and themselves. But for those who truly want to change, who have the potential to give something back to a society they were harming, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program is a key to changing the game of repeat offenders.

I highly encourage everyone to look into the Prison Entrepreneurship Program and spread the word. If we, as a people, want to see real changes to those who have violated the laws of the land more programs like PEP are a very good place to start.

References –

  1. Incarceration – Wikipedia
  2. About Us – PEP Website
  3. Results – PEP Website
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