Posts Tagged ‘certificate of entrepreneurship’

PEP was just profiled in Tech.Co. The story, linked here, is below.


TechCoIn the classic novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, ex-convict Jean Valjean underwent a complete transformation after receiving unmerited forgiveness from the bishop he was trying to rob.  Valjean later became a dignified businessman and pillar of the community, advocating for the poor and powerless.  This picture of redemption is what thousands of inmates long to experience as they apply for admission to the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP).

As a nonprofit, PEP seeks to “unlock human potential through entrepreneurial passion, education, and mentoring.”  Founded by business leaders who recognized the entrepreneurial spirit of Texas inmates, the organization has successfully produced over a thousand graduates since the program began in 2004.  PEP offers a rigorous curriculum with MBA-level coursework that challenges inmates and enables them to productively return to society after prison.

The PEP leadership conceived of the idea for the entrepreneurship program upon studying the profiles of criminals in the Texas prison system.  Prior to their arrest and conviction, many of the inmates were competently running their own burgeoning enterprises.  And although the businesses they owned may have been illegal, their ability to start and grow their companies demonstrated the presence of unrealized business acumen in the prison system.  PEP hopes the entrepreneurship program will repurpose the inmates’ entrepreneurial talents and channel them into legitimate business ventures.

Lending credibility to the program is Baylor University, which has been awarding PEP graduates with a Certificate of Entrepreneurship since 2013.  The certificate provides an incentive for inmates to excel and also helps to overcome the stigma of incarceration.  According to PEP, less than one percent of those enrolled in the program are white-collar criminals.  Most have drug-related offenses, with 50 percent doing time for violent crimes.

Just how effective is the Prison Entrepreneurship Program?  Baylor University announced that the employment rate of PEP graduates is over 93% and the recidivism rate is under 5%.  PEP estimates the program has saved the state of Texas $6 million in reduced recidivism.  Graduates have launched over 165 businesses, with at least two exceeding $1 million in gross revenues.

To learn more about the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, visit PEP’s website atpep.org.

Winnefred Jackson

Winnefred Jackson

My name is Winnefred Jackson and I am a 2009 graduate of Baylor University. I graduated from Hankamer School of Business with a major in Financial Services and Planning. I just wanted to share with you the amazing experiences that I have had since being a part of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

In March of 2013, I read an article on Baylor’s website about PEP and I knew that it was something that I just had to be a part of. I grew up in a neighborhood in which for most people fathers were nonexistent because of drugs and jail. I emailed Al Massey so that I could find out how I could use my skills in economic development to serve the needs of the program.

Mr. Massey invited me to my first experience at PEP, Class 19 Graduation. I walked in with the notion that I would see how I could help the program, but what I received was a life changing experience.

As a woman in an all-male facility I was nervous at first, but once I walked in I realized that PEP was a band of brothers striving to pull each other up and be a support system for each other. Some of them did not have family on the outside to encourage them, but on the inside they had PEP.

I cried at graduation as if I knew someone about to walk across the stage.

What I saw that day was men able to hold their head up high with a sense of accomplishment. Regardless of what the men had done in the past their families, friends and business plan advisors were there to support them.

Many of the men had dropped out of high school and had on a cap and gown for the very first time. Even those that had been in the past repeat offenders where given another chance to get it right to do something to make their loved once proud of them once more. They received a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from not just any school but my alma mater.

Through attending more PEP programs I talked to the participants and learned more about how the program was helping them to become better fathers and better men. Over a year later, I still remember talking to a young woman while waiting in line to get inside graduation. She began to tell about how her husband had actually gotten paroled a few weeks ago, but made arrangements to be able to come back and graduate. The fact that her husband left prison and asked to come back in order to graduate spoke volumes about PEP.

A few weeks after attending graduation, I was at a conference in Dallas and picked up a newspaper. Inside the newspaper was a drawing of a prisoner getting out of jail only to stand in an employment line. That drawing confirmed that I was exactly where God wanted me to be. Without the help of PEP, men will be released with no direction while families eagerly awaits on their leadership.

It’s so easy for them to succumb under pressure by trying to make easy money and possibly end up right back in prison. With our help, these men can be the leaders that they need to be for their families. I hope that you will join me by becoming a business plan advisor (click here) or helping out at one of the events (click here) so that you too can be a repeat attender like me.