Archive for the ‘Articles on Incarceration and Recidivism’ Category

Can free enterprise redeem the incarcerated?

Gerard Robinson, Elizabeth English, Sean Kennedy
February 23, 2016 4:55 pm | AEIdeas

Cleveland, Texas.

An hour north of Houston, over 70 suit-clad volunteers shuffle into a place most fear to enter: prison. Greeted by CEO Bert Smith and his staff, these “executive volunteers” – drawn from Houston’s elite business community – are there to counsel prisoners in entrepreneurship.

Without a dollar of government funds, the Texas-based Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) trains prisoners to start their own businesses upon their return to society. It not only offers education and community within the prison’s walls but also gives participants the tools to succeed in life after prison through re-entry, employment, and social opportunities.

According to Smith, PEP “trains up men to gain a complete understanding of what it takes to run an honest business and build social capital.” That innovative approach, different from your average prison-based program, is already reaping rewards. PEP graduates are dramatically better off than their non-PEP counterparts, being significantly less likely to re-offend and more likely to hold down steady, well-paying work, according to a Baylor University study.

PEP emphasizes that it is “a hand-up, not a hand-out.” Participants are selected from across Texas’s prison system through recruitment and screening. After being selected, they are transferred to one of two prisons where PEP operates. Program participants start a 9-month program that includes a Leadership Academy — a character building course — and a crash course in business and entrepreneurship that culminates in a competition to determine which would-be entrepreneurs’ business ideas hold the most promise. PEP even convenes “Venture Capital Panels”— like in the TV showShark Tank – where executives volunteer to judge the budding entrepreneurs, listen to their elevator pitches, and offer feedback. Upon completing the program, successful participants graduate and receive a “Certificate in Entrepreneurship” from Baylor University.

Astoundingly, the program places 100% of its graduates in work within 90 days of release. Many achieve it much sooner. After 12 years of operation, the program has built up a network of 750 Texas employers that have placed a PEP graduate in gainful employment. The average starting wages for PEP graduates are 60% higher than minimum wage. After 6 months on the job, graduates earn an average of almost $16 an hour.

Learn more:

Though PEP is underpinned by Judeo-Christian values, participants are drawn from all races and creeds. Only men may apply, and above all other qualities PEP looks for in the competitive application process, applicants must demonstrate a commitment to changing their lives for the better.

That shared commitment to building a new life fosters palpable camaraderie among the inmates. PEP participants – most of whom have been wards of the state before – call each other “brother” and consider volunteers and staff “family.” PEP’s “10 Driving Values” (including “excellence,” “accountability,” and “fresh start outlook”) are hung around the room PEP occupies in the prison and shape every activity and interaction. Participants are asked to speak in front of volunteers and other participants regularly. They are also given business cards that they distribute to volunteers with the hope of connecting with them upon their return to society.

Upon release, PEP staff meet the participants at the prison gates and start the re-entry process – acquiring civilian identification, medical insurance, food assistance, and basic necessities like toiletries and clothes for a job interview. PEP also runs transition housing for graduates and assists with job placement and parole compliance.

To date, PEP graduates have started 211 businesses with six of those exceeding $1 million in annual revenue. In addition, the vast majority of graduates stay on the straight and narrow. The latest available data suggests that less than 7% of graduates have been re-arrested in the three years since release— an astonishing figure given national recidivism rates exceed 50% in most jurisdictions.

PEP accomplishes all of this on a shoe string budget of $2.4 million in 2016 with mostly volunteer labor. Ninety percent of its paid staff are PEP graduates themselves.

In many ways, PEP embodies the American Enterprise Institute’s mission of “increasing individual opportunity and strengthening free enterprise.” Deep in the heart of Texas, this little platoon of society is serving its fellow man by promoting self-sufficiency, free enterprise, and hope among those society often deems unredeemable.

By believing in participants and empowering them with tools for success, PEP is helping to reduce America’s high recidivism rates – a phenomenon AEI scholars including Robert Doar, Maura Corrigan, and Sally Satel have highlighted in the past. PEP may offer a path out of the vicious prison cycle toward a freer, safer, and more prosperous society for all, beginning with ex-offenders.

This article was found online at:
http://www.aei.org/publication/can-free-enterprise-redeem-the-incarcerated/

 

Each week, we read a number of prison and recidivism articles from various online resources. Here are our top picks from what we’ve read recently.

Let us know what you think about each of these articles! Please comment below or contact us via Facebook or Twitter.

Once a criminal, always a criminal?
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/once-a-criminal-always-a-criminal/

This article points out that there is a higher recidivism rate among non-violent criminals. This is a rate we can do something about if we re-think the prison system.

What It’s Like to Get Online After 25 Years in Prison
http://mashable.com/2013/03/14/michael-santos-prison-online/

Once inmates serve their time, are they prepared to survive in the world? Are we setting them up for failure? For some inmates, major changes have taken place in the world while they’ve been incarcerated. We can lower the recidivism rate if we can rethink the prison system, and give inmates life changing tools and skills.

The prison door keeps revolving
http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/05/04/mass-incarceration-worth-our-low-crime-rates/5E1ypAZw2MalhR4KfmHZpJ/story.html

Plainly, there is something deeply disquieting about a democratic superpower locking up so many people that 25 percent of the world’s reported prisoners are housed in US cells. How can a country with an incarceration rate of 716 inmates per 100,000 residents, roughly five times the global average, think of itself as “The Land of the Free?”

What do you think? We’d love your feedback.

How can we can change these statistics?

Each week, we read a number of prison and recidivism articles from various online resources. Here are our top picks from what we’ve read recently.

Let us know what you think about each of these articles! Please comment below or contact us via Facebook or Twitter.

Interactive Map Shows How Much Prisons Cost in America:
http://mashable.com/2014/05/05/prison-map-interactive/?utm_cid=Mash-Prod-RSS-Feedburner-All-Partial&utm_content=My+Yahoo

The United States prison system is costing American taxpayers nearly $39 billion. This interactive map provides a great visual to show the distribution of this money. Check out the highest spending states: California at $7.9 billion, New York at $3.5 billion and Texas at $3.3 billion. It’s time we start to rethinking prison!

3 In 4 Former Prisoners in 30 States Arrested Within 5 Years of Release:
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rprts05p0510pr.cfm

This information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics gives some interesting statistics about recidivism. Imagine just how low we can get the recidivism rate if we re-think the prison system.

America’s Recidivism Nightmare: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/22/america-s-recidivism-nightmare.html

“One of the biggest factors [recidivism] is age. The prison population is getting older, Durose told The Daily Beast.” /blockquote>

This doesn’t have to be the case. There is an incredible amount of talent behind bars. We can tap this talent if we rethink prison.

What do you think?