Unique Prison Program Boasts Impressive Benefits

Did you know the United States has the largest incarcerated population in the world, with 25 percent of the world’s inmates despite only 5 percent of the world’s population? For formerly incarcerated inmates, the prospects of finding honest work at a livable wage is daunting, especially without support and real-world skills to succeed. The cycle of unemployment and economic despair leads many to reoffend, and the tragic cycle continues.

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program, or PEP, is a unique rehabilitation program in Houston and Dallas that provides unparalleled resources and real-world, values-based business skills to inmates to improve their chances of succeeding when they are released.

PEP engages top business and academic talent to constructively redirect inmates’ ambitions by equipping them with values-based training in entrepreneurship–-enabling them to productively re-enter society. With the active involvement of executive and MBA volunteers, PEP runs a six-month business plan competition in prison and then provides a broad range of programs after release, including housing assistance, work readiness services, continuing education, executive mentoring and small-business startup assistance.

Sprint Waste Services President and CEO Dave Nelson and Safety Director Dave Dillard have both participated as business plan advisers and laud the program’s unique approach. “The prisoners who participate in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program are nothing short of inspiring, and I was constantly amazed at the creativity and fresh ideas from these hard-working men,” Nelson said. “The program is quite rigorous and not easy for prisoners to get into or complete. They are invested in every way in the program and their own business plans, and it really empowers them to change their lives for the better.”

Among PEP's groundbreaking results are a return-to-prison rate of less than 7 percent (compared to the 50 percent national average), an employment rate of 100 percent within 90 days of release from prison and more than 185 businesses launched. A 2013 Baylor University study concluded that every dollar donated to PEP yields a 340 percent return on investment to the community due to avoided incarceration, increased child support payments and reduced reliance on government assistance programs.

PEP has accomplished these results without government money, relying solely on donations from individuals, businesses, churches and foundations. The program is regularly lauded in the national press and serves as a model for other prison rehabilitation programs across the country.

How can you get involved?

Learn more about PEP