Prison Entrepreneurship Program
A large percentage of inmates come to prison as seasoned entrepreneurs, having run highly successful enterprises such as drug rings and gangs. What if these influential leaders were provided with the training and resources to establish and run legitimate companies? With the active involvement of executive and MBA volunteers, PEP runs a five month business plan competition in prison and then provides a broad range of post-release programs including housing assistance, work readiness services, continuing education, executive mentoring and small business start-up assistance. Since its inception in May 2004, PEP has recruited thousands of senior-level executives to volunteer as business plan competition judges, and more than 450 MBA students from 24 business programs across the country, including Harvard and Stanford, to serve as weekly mentors and advisors for the inmates’ business plans. PEP’s 440 graduates have started 54 new businesses, maintained an employment rate north of 90% after release, and sustained a return-to-prison rate of less than 10%. The program’s innovative work has been featured on NBC Nightly News and in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and many other publications. PEP also makes numerous presentations each year, including the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, the Philanthropy Roundtable’s Annual Dinner, the Conference of Southwest Foundations and numerous church and foundation events.