Sanders Estes Unit in Venus, TX. (Prison Entrepreneurship Program)

The Estes Unit in Venus, TX is about 45 minutes away from Downtown Dallas. (Prison Entrepreneurship Program)

It’s official: PEP is launching operations in a second prison this month! ! !

Now in our 11th year of service, PEP recently secured approval from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to pursue this expansion. We have spent the past few months in a quiet planning mode with the leadership from MTC, the private operators of the Sanders “Sandy” Estes Unit (a TDCJ prison) in Venus, TX. Representatives from their team met with PEP’s leadership team, and the Warden even visited our existing program in the Cleveland Correctional Center to see PEP in action.

Yesterday, our staff met with the team at the Estes Unit to finalize plans for our launch. We have already transferred 10 servant leaders (past graduates) there to guide the program’s first class of forty participants through PEP’s new “Leadership Academy.” These incarcerated men are taking on the critical task of building PEP’s culture within this new unit. . . which is only 45-60 minutes away from Downtown Dallas!

The task will be a challenging one in some ways. With 1,040 beds, the Estes Unit is twice the size of the Cleveland Correctional Center where PEP has offered our in-prison initiatives for the past several years. The ratio of PEP-to-General-Population also drops from 3-to-2 down to 1-to-20+.

But we believe firmly that our ten Servant Leaders are up to the task. They will also be guided by a full-time staff member: PEP graduate Gami Jasso, who has returned to PEP for his third “tour of duty” with the organization (Gami is formerly a re-entry manager for the Dallas area who will now serve as the manager for our in-prison initiatives at the Estes Unit; he returns to PEP after serving in a similar role for adjudicated youth involved in Youth Village Resources of Dallas).

The team at MTC has also been fully supportive of our efforts; their leadership team has been especially committed to our mission of transforming the lives of incarcerated men and their families, so we anticipate this new effort will be very successful.

That said — we still need your prayers and your financial support to make this effort a success:

Formerly known as “Effective Leadership,” the Leadership Academy (“LA”) now serves as a three-month precursor to PEP‘s full Business Plan Competition (“BPC”) program. PEP first piloted the LA inside the Cleveland Unit (where PEP currently operates the BPC), and we are now expanding it to the Estes Unit in order to reach a larger population.

In some ways, LA serves as a sort of “junior college” to prepare participants for the full BPC. LA is only 20 hours per week (compared to BPC’s 40+), and the program is entirely focused on character development rather than entrepreneurship. This approach helps PEP to emphasize our belief that the foundation for all lasting professional success is a person’s character. 

LA will involve three core initiatives:

  • Driving Values: The foundation for PEP’s character development efforts are its 10 Driving Values.
  • Effective Leadership: Using a curriculum that was developed by PEP on the basis of classic leadership texts such as “True North” (by Bill George and Peter Sims), this curriculum guides participants through an intense period of self-assessment and personal transformation.
  • Men’s Life: Also known as “Men’s Fraternity,” this program utilizes a curriculum developed by Dr. Robert Lewis called The Quest for Authentic Manhood. The program is based on Biblical principles and uses Jesus Christ as the model for manhood, but it is open to people of all faiths (or no faith). PEP considers itself “faith infused” but not expressly evangelical (i.e. no religious commitment is required for inmates to successfully complete any of our programs). Men’s Life is also open to the entire prison, including men who are not currently involved in PEP.

Graduates of the LA will then become eligible for the BPC in Cleveland.

Eventually, we plan for the Estes Unit to grow into a full BPC campus. Based on the success of this initial launch, we will then look to replicate the LA into other prisons around the state … effectively building a feeder system of qualified participants for PEP. This will allow PEP to rapidly and cost-effectively scale our impact across the Texas prison system.

You can make a donation to support this effort at

Please COMMENT with anything you’d like for us to share with these amazing leaders. Favorite quotes, encouraging notes and words of wisdom welcome!

UPDATE: Click here to read about the 10 graduates who volunteered to transfer to the Estes Unit to help PEP launch this new program.




  1. All the executive volunteers are excited about expansion into Venus, I salute the pEP staff for making this happen.

  2. […] Celebration time … PEP expanding to 2nd prison!!! […]

  3. […] as one of 10 servant leaders (prior PEP graduates) to transfer to a new prison to help us launch a new program near Dallas, Texas. Mark “had a job to do and wanted to see it through to the […]

  4. […] sacrificing months of his own freedom, Mark equipped nearly 40 other inmates to complete this new program in PEP. He showed them a profound example of the transformation that would be possible in their own […]

  5. […] sacrificing months of his own freedom, Mark equipped nearly 40 other inmates to complete this new program in PEP. He showed them a profound example of the transformation that would be possible in their own […]

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