Here’s a great article about Jeff Offutt, owner of JITA Printing, the role of PEP in his life, and Silver Fox Advisors.

Forbes Article about PEP

Posted: October 31, 2016 by wamjr60 in About PEP

Charles Blain is a regular PEP volunteer, and is the Executive Director of Restore Justice USA, a project of Empower Texas.



US News Article Mentions the Importance of PEP

Posted: June 30, 2016 by wamjr60 in About PEP

From our friends at the American Enterprise Institute, a recent opinion on the importance of prison education programs mentions PEP.

From the New York Times, June 3, 2016


A Brother Helps a Brother

Posted: June 3, 2016 by wamjr60 in About PEP

The business plan competition event is the capstone of each and every class inside the Cleveland and Estes facilities. All of the participants work diligently towards becoming one of the final four men who will have the enviable and daunting task of pitching the business plan they have created to a room full of C-suite executives and their peers. And while every graduate of PEP is victorious, only one will emerge the winner of the business plan competition. Read the rest of this entry »


A report has just been published this month by the Centre for Entrepreneurs in the UK that mentions PEP in Texas as well as Leonhard, the program in Germany that PEP inspired.

Centre for Entrepreneurs Report on Prison Entrepreneurship

American Enterprise Institute–Re-Entry Video

Posted: May 17, 2016 by wamjr60 in About PEP

AEI–Prisoner reentry and why we should care–in 60 seconds

Please watch this great video produced by the American Enterprise Institute about PEP.

Rehabilitate Former Prisoners with Jobs

Posted: April 29, 2016 by wamjr60 in About PEP

Re-Entry Week–Rehabilitate Prisoners

April 29, 2016
Rehabilitate Former Prisoners with Jobs
By Kevin Gay & Bert Smith
There is a pervasive misunderstanding that individuals who commit crimes simply go away when they are locked up. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Nationwide, even though more than 2 million citizens are incarcerated and in excess of 11 million will serve time in local jails, approximately 95 percent of inmates currently serving time in state prisons will be released one day. And the rate of release is more than 600,000 people per year.

We’ve all heard the stories, and we’re all familiar with the data revealing pervasively high recidivism rates, i.e., people being released from prison and shortly thereafter committing a new crime and ending up back behind bars. If the purposes of our criminal justice system are punishment and deterrence, public safety, and rehabilitation, clearly our system is failing us.

So the question with which we as a society must grapple is this: What sort of future for these released men and women best serves society at large?

Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the federal Department of Justice have designated the week of April 24 “National Re-entry Week” to help bring attention to the important work of helping ex-offenders re-enter society. As the leaders of two nonprofits on the front lines of this effort, we strongly believe that solutions exist, lives can be changed, and communities can be improved. Moreover, we truly can give these ex-offenders a second chance to lead productive lives.

Re-entry matters to all of us because successful re-entry makes us all safer and results in a more socially beneficial use of our tax dollars, and successful re-entry begins on the day an inmate enters prison.

Rehabilitation is never easy, but it is possible. One of the most important crime-fighting tools is employment. Operation New Hope’s Ready4Work program in Florida helps recently released clients transition back into the community and become productive and responsible citizens. Through a four-to-six week course, we address drug abuse issues, offer mentorship and guidance, teach character development and other life skills, provide job training and assist with job placement. Because of the rigorous nature of our programs, we have been able to successfully transition more than 3,600 ex-offenders back into their communities and workforce. Just as important, our strategic partnerships with local law enforcement, businesses, and the faith and community agencies have thrived. They see safer streets and find talented, dedicated, and reliable employees. When we find our clients jobs, we are helping to make our community safer and strengthening our local economy.

In Texas, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program’s approach to re-entry begins behind bars and supports inmates who want to reboot their lives. Our in-prison education teaches leadership, character development, and business skills, with college-level courses supplemented by graduate school case studies. Inmates develop a business plan and present it to real-world executives. They develop the skills they will need upon release to find a job or start a business and live a good life. When they are released, we provide comprehensive re-entry services in a structured environment of accountability and encouragement. We have served over 1,200 inmates in their transition and are proud to say that 100 percent of PEP graduates are employed within 90 days of release (and more than 180 graduates have started over 200 businesses). After one year, 90 percent are still employed, and our recidivism rate is just 7 percent.

Whether or not they have a program to help support their re-entry, all ex-offenders today face numerous barriers to success. While some make sense, given the crimes committed, many of these restrictions prevent ex-offenders from qualifying for decent jobs and housing. In Florida, there are 1,166 legal and regulatory sanctions and restrictions a person faces in addition to the sentences imposed by the courts. In Texas, that number is 1,586. Having allowed these restrictions to accumulate and persist, we as a society should not be surprised that as many as half of released parolees become homeless and choose to return to a life of crime.

We both have seen the transformative power of education, character development, faith, and employment through our work. We have seen lives literally saved. When you watch and assist an individual break a cycle of self-destruction and become a confident, responsible, happy, and productive member of society, you cannot help but be inspired.

Re-entry is about keeping all of us safe; it is about finding jobs, teaching skills, restoring hope, and saving lives.

We could not do this work alone. PEP and Operation New Hope rely on partnerships with law enforcement, prisons, and especially the business community. So this Re-entry Week, we encourage you to celebrate by engaging the businesses in your community. Businesses need motivated, talented workers; ex-offenders need a way to turn their lives around. The best crime prevention is a good job. Let’s get to work.

Kevin Gay is CEO and founder of Operation New Hope, and Bert Smith is the CEO of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

CNN Op-Ed about Re-Entry and PEP

Posted: April 26, 2016 by wamjr60 in About PEP

(CNN) Every year, about 600,000 men and women (the equivalent of the city of Baltimore) return to communities across the country without anyone much noticing. Astonishingly, 1 out of 30 American adults have made this journey home over the last few decades.

Gerard Robinson

They occupy the ranks of a forgotten (and much maligned) class: the formerly incarcerated. Nearly 8 million strong, these “returned citizens” struggle to find work and if they do, they earn substantially less than their counterparts. This is partly because of stigma and partly because of lack of education, skills and work experience in time lost behind bars.
As a result, they disproportionately rely on government aid and are more likely to be homeless and develop chronic and acute illnesses. Unfortunately for them and for society, all too many return to the habits and lifestyles that sent them to prison in the first place.
This year’s National Reentry Week (April 24-30) represents a unique opportunity to shine a light on the challenge of turning the formerly incarcerated into productive, “returned citizens.” The White House hosted an event Monday with the Brennan Center for Justice and American Enterprise Institute to discuss the findings of a Council of Economic Advisers’ reportoutlining the economic costs of failure to successfully integrate ex-offenders into society.
Of those released from prison, one-third are rearrested in their first year out, 57% within three years and over three-quarters within five years. That means that less than one in four ex-offenders manage to stay out of trouble in their first years back in society, according to a 2014 Justice Department study. That same study found that the younger the offender, the more likely he or she is to have another run-in with the law after release from state custody.
But you don’t need to have much sympathy for those who spent time locked behind bars to believe we should do better by the formerly incarcerated — you just want to have safer streets. Our prisons are making those sent away better at harming innocent, law-abiding citizens.
The racial and socioeconomic disparities, coupled with a generally dehumanizing experience in prison, have also fueled a national movement to “reform” criminal justice laws in recent years. Many conservatives and liberals are embracing the notion that eliminating some of the “tough on crime” policies of the 1980s and 1990s, like mandatory minimums, harsh sentences for crack cocaine and other drugs, and voting and job discrimination for ex-offenders.
This approach might be a worthy proposition, but criminal justice “reformers” cannot expect that reducing sentences or suffrage alone will do much for the day-to-day lives of the formerly incarcerated. Just as important, this approach still leaves the safety of their neighbors, and the peace of our communities, in the balance.
Because the average length of an incarcerated individual’s prison stay is less than three years and 95% of prison terms are for less than life, the vast majority of the prison population is coming home at some point.
Unfortunately, too little emphasis is paid to this population, and the back-end efforts they need to be successful upon their release. Both state and federal attempts to reform the criminal justice system have focused on the entering inmate class, either by reducing the penalties or dissuading offenses in the first place. Lofty aims indeed, but they ignore the elephant in the room — what to do with offenders during and after their time in prison.
Preparation for the outside world is key for the incarcerated, but both state and federal systems have drastically cut spending on in-prison training over time and often provide little to no support (other than a few dollars and a bus ticket) to offenders upon release.
Unsurprisingly, exiting the prison gates becomes a daunting journey for most of the formerly incarcerated. Men and women, many who return to children they left behind, have lost their social support systems, any legitimate work they may have had, and in too many cases, are deeply in debt with legal and child support fees.
To help these returning citizens on their path back to productive and full lives, we must do more. Local, state and federal agencies spend just a tiny fraction of their criminal justice budgets on resources that empower the formerly incarcerated. Recent research into “what works” in reducing recidivism and easing the re-entry process is severely lacking.
What little does exist suggests that successful re-entry starts behind bars, when prisoners themselves choose to change their lives, learn basic skills, and begin to plan for a life on the outside. Upon release, the most effective programs help returning citizens reconnect with positive social connections, find work and housing immediately, and get and stay both mentally and physically healthy.
One such program, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program in Texas, helps the incarcerated build up their life and business skills on the inside and meets them at the prison gates. From there, returning citizens are connected with family, housing, health care and jobs. Many of the program’s  graduates go on to start their own businesses while only 7% find themselves in trouble with the law within three years. It accomplishes all this without a penny of government money.
That model, which bridges the inside and outside worlds, offers returned citizens hope for the future and an opportunity to change their own lives for the better.
Neither government nor nonprofits can solve this problem in isolation. Leaders from corporate, philanthropic and faith-based communities must also help returned citizens. In turn, this civil society approach will empower them to help themselves. Let us not forget that they are our neighbors, friends and fellow citizens and deserve the dignity and promise of the American Dream once their sentence is paid.

WFAA in Dallas features PEP!

Sebastian Robertson of WFAA in Dallas came to the Estes Unit on Friday morning, March 4th, and captured the story of one of the business plan finalists.