Yesterday, The Houston Chronicle ran a strong editorial about The Prison Entrepreneurship Program, in which the paper’s stated:

“State lawmakers should find a way to expand the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.”
– The Houston Chronicle

The article can be read here:
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Fresh-start-5696533.php

It is also cited below.

Our country is facing a prisoner re-entry crisis. Since the 1970s, the U.S. prison population has grown by more than 700 percent.

This means that as many as 70,000 prisoners may be returning to communities in Texas annually over the next several years, according to a recent study completed by the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion.

That’s about 55,000 more prisoners per year than the number of students graduating from all the colleges and universities in Texas after four years.

Prison terms are designed at least in part to deter prisoners from committing future crime. Yet despite our state’s massive investment in our criminal justice system, around 23 percent of the prisoners released will be back in jail within three years. Ex-cons face considerable obstacles to gainful employment.

Without mentors or a means of sustaining themselves, former inmates can lapse into old habits. The costs of incarceration don’t stop with the prisoner: His incarceration makes it more likely that his children will be incarcerated.

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program, a nonprofit that operates exclusively in Texas, provides a fresh approach to the long-standing and costly problem of prisoner recidivism.

With the help of volunteers skilled in their professions, the program trains inmates for productive work. While in jail, a prisoner conceives of a business and writes a complete plan for implementing it upon his release. Since mid-2010, every active graduate of the program has secured his first job within 90 days of leaving prison.

The criminal justice system needs to develop capacity to help inmates who are genuinely committed to starting over. With a three-year recidivism rate of five to seven percent, Prison Entrepreneurship Program participants are much less likely than other freed prisoners to be re-incarcerated. This model appears to work, yet the program has only been able to serve 1,000 inmates. And at this point, the program is working exclusively with men, not women inmates.

State lawmakers should find a way to expand the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. If budgetary or other restraints make that impossible, then lawmakers and civic leaders should adopt it as a model and lend their influence to recruiting more volunteers from diverse backgrounds willing to work with ex-prisoners.

Nothing speaks to the Prison Entrepreneurship Program’s success more powerfully than a single statistic: 30 percent of the program’s donors in recent years are graduates. From felon to philanthropist – that’s a transformation worthy of support.

Comments
  1. I am now one step closer to subscribing to the Chronicle, they got it right.

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