The following was written by a new volunteer to PEP: William Brant Wallace, PhD, the COO and Treasurer of e-World Systems Ltd. Brant is also officially the 100th person to join the PEP Partners program, through which he and others make monthly gifts to sustain and grow PEP’s mission. You can learn more about this program here.
Matthew 25:36 (NIV):
I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
I spent the day in a State of Texas prison yesterday.
A friend and colleague (thank you Keith) invited me to attend what he described as “Shark Tank in Prison”. The day was called ‘Pitch Day’ and was organized, run, and hosted by the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (www.pep.org).
Not knowing much about the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, although my friend gave an extensive briefing on the way to the state penitentiary, I was pensive. Once we arrived, we were asked to exchange our driver’s licenses for issued ID’s, remove everything out of our pockets, take off jackets and shoes, walked through metal detectors, were pat down, and, as very large and heavy metal doors slid shut and locked behind us, we were escorted to interior rooms of the prison. Having been a guest of Harris County Texas several times in my life, this experience was a little unsettling.
As we settled in, a group of 60 business owners and executives interacted with 77 inmates of varying backgrounds. These prisoners were welcoming, excited to see us, were pleasant to interact with, and, equipped with a purpose and months of preparation, were smiling and having fun. As the 20th class of the program, the prisoners were selected from several thousand applicants from around the State of Texas’ prison system. Once accepted, they had undergone rigorous education, training, peer character assessments, and were asked to create a business plan.
Yesterday, they pitched their business plans to panels of people like me. We coached and critiqued their presentations, pitches, and plans. After the panel members had heard all of the pitches, we were given an opportunity to speak with them one-on-one.
When I spoke with them one-on-one, it no longer felt like I was speaking to someone in prison but like I was speaking to an emerging entrepreneur asking for guidance, a shot, and capital. As a matter of fact, they were more receptive and prepared than most entrepreneurs that I hear from on a daily basis. As the day concluded, we heard reflections from various executives and prisoners. After the prisoners were escorted out and went back to their daily routines, we were asked to consider continued support and involvement of PEP (http://tnzr.us/7r).
This morning, I felt compelled to share a little of my PEP experience and to ask that as our weekend begins, that we remember to give a chance and hope to those who are in need, sick, and in prison.
Father God, thank you for calling us to give clothes to those in need, to look after the sick, and to visit those in prison. Thank you for using us to give hope to the needy, the sick, and prisoners and captives. As we are consumed by our busy lives, please help us to remember your charge. Through following your charge, please teach us to take the time to work with those less fortunate than ourselves. In doing so, please guide us to follow Christ’s example by giving the most unlikely members of society a chance and a shot. All of this we ask in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.