The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) operates a family reunification initiative to support the loved ones of our incarcerated participants. Led by our two family liaisons, this program seeks to achieve four goals:

  1. Educate them on what PEP is … a highly selective, rigorous “entrepreneurship boot camp” that represents a very significant accomplishment on the part of their incarcerated loved one.
  2. Educate them on what PEP is NOT … particularly, PEP neither guarantees a job nor the opportunity to start a business. Rather, PEP is a legitimate second chance at life. But, like any tool, PEP only works when it is put into use. As we tell our participants: “It’s up to you — but you’re not alone.”
  3. Encourage them to attend graduation … particularly since, for many of our participants, this will be their first time in a cap-and-gown.
  4. Educate them on the tremendous benefits of allowing their loved one to transfer immediately to a PEP-operated transition home after release from prison (and not immediately return home).

The latter is among our greatest challenges. After years of being unable to see their loved one, most families are desperate for him to return home. However, even among PEP graduates, we have seen that their likelihood of returning to prison DOUBLES if they immediately return home rather than spending the first 6-12 months after their release in a transition home.

Since these families are spread all over the country, PEP hosts several conference calls each year to support these goals. After one of these calls, PEP’s family reunification team sent our families the following interview between Laura Stiehl (one of our family liaisons) and Pat McGee (a former PEP participant who now leads our in-prison program). The interview offers insights into PEP’s comprehensive approach to life transformation.

HELP US TO TRANSFORM LIVES: Please share Questions 4 and 5 with anyone who has a loved in prison. They apply to everyone in prison, not just those in PEP.


PEP's Pat McGee

PEP’s Pat McGee

QUESTION 1: Pat, you’ve been to more graduations than I have – what do you think family members need to know about graduation?  (Can you paint us a picture of what family members can expect?  And how important is it for people to attend a graduation from a program?)

Their loved ones have gone through a tough time over the past 5 ½ months getting through the curriculum and learning to think differently. These men will be filled with anxiety and joy, all at the same time. The anxiety comes from wondering if they have a loved one in attendance – to share this accomplishment with them. Many will witness transformation in progress and at that time truly understand what their loved ones have been undertaking.

QUESTION 2: Since you’ve been working with this particular group of men since January, can you share with us some of the most noticeable changes you’ve seen so far in the men of CL21?

As a whole, they rise to whatever challenge is thrown their way. They have truly grown together as a group. They will challenge anything they feel isn’t in alignment, collectively. Previously, there has maybe been a small group willing to challenge status quo.

QUESTION 3: What do you think is the #1 misconception family members typically have about PEP?

That PEP is an extension of TDCJ and their loved ones will still be supervised if they decide to go to our transition house. There’s also a misconception that their loved ones will automatically be provided employment by PEP, whereas PEP will provide leads but it is up to the guys to use the training they have received to sell themselves. Something 100% of our guys have been able to do within 90 days of being released.

QUESTION 4: How can these family members best support their loved ones?

Encourage them, but force them to make decisions, both small and large. It is the small ones that will be most tempting for families to make, but it is those that will be the most beneficial to the guys if they get accustomed to making them.

QUESTION 5: Is there anything else you would like to share with us this evening?

Having family support will go a long way toward the future success of these men. I understand that many may have tarnished the family trust, and it is not encouraged to be given easily, but establish expectations and metrics with these men to work toward redemption and they will step up to the challenge.

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