The following originally appeared in the 2013 annual report from Bridgeway Capital Management. It is reprinted here with permission from the author, Bridgeway’s Head of Equity Trading, Dick Cancelmo.


Transformative Change
Prison Entrepreneurship Program — authored by Dick Cancelmo

Dick Cancelmo

Dick Cancelmo

In my mind happiness and the pursuit of satisfaction in life evolves around a common theme of People, Places and Purpose. Little did I know that prison could be a Place to evoke happiness until I participated in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program or PEP. This very well run and successful program transforms “inmates and executives by unlocking human potential through entrepreneurial passion, education and mentoring.” One of the outcomes of PEP’s mission is that it tackles a tremendous problem in Texas prisons: that 25% of prisoners return to jail within 3 years. PEP’s 700+ graduates have a recidivism rate of less than 5% since PEP started operations in 2004. In addition, the employment rate for graduates within 90 days of release is 100%, with more than 120 businesses launched from the program.

Three Bridgeway Partners, Kai Liu, Cindy Griffin and Tammira Philippe, have been active in this program for several years. They organized a small group of Partners, family members and a business associate to see what PEP was all about. Recently, we went to the Cleveland Correctional Center just north of Houston and spent the better part of the day in prison. We participated in “Pitch Day,” an exercise where select prisoners “pitch” business plans for their hopeful post-prison businesses. As members of the volunteer executive panels, we offered insight, suggestions and encouragement to this group of men.

When we arrived at the Cleveland Correctional Center, the first thing that was obvious was that there are very few things that differentiate us from the inmates in the program. If it weren’t for luck or grace or whatever you choose to call it, any of us could be the ones on the other side. Secondly, they were very well prepared for this event after spending many hours of hard work studying an outstanding curriculum. Third, they were incredibly articulate, passionate, friendly and thankful for our help, and more importantly the help of the dedicated leaders of PEP who have given these men the tremendous gift of Purpose.

Perhaps the experience was best summed up by Matt Hall, our business associate who joined us – “I’m very cognizant of what gives me energy and of activities that are energy thieves. If I think about how I feel after being away on a ten day vacation and compare that feeling to one day at PEP, there’s no question that PEP is the winner. Three weeks later, I’m still energized by the men of PEP.”

PEP’s success in reducing recidivism rates and changing lives has been growing. They hope to soon include all inmates at the Cleveland Correctional Center, which would double the program size. Check out PEP for yourself – http://www.prisonentrepreneurship.org

Please Add a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s