The Texas-based Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) believes that helping inmates prepare to start their own businesses when they leave prison will reduce the likelihood that they will end up behind bars again. And the program’s statistics show it is working.

“PEP has graduated more than 1,100 students that have opened 165 businesses, at least two of which are grossing more than $1 million,” reports the AP. “Within 90 days of their release, nearly all had found jobs.”

The innovative program was founded in 2004 by former Wall Street professional Catherine Rohr, who noticed that inmates often have a lot in common with business owners. She began connecting top executives, entrepreneurs, and MBA students with convicted felons who want to redirect their energy toward legitimate goals. It made sense to help them start their own businesses because getting hired was a dim prospect while “ex-felon” remained on their job applications.

By teaching entrepreneurship and helping inmates come up with business plans, PEP became a leader in prison reform. With a three-year success rate as high as 95%, the non-profit program continued to grow, expanding to 60+ prisons in Texas. They also run several transitional homes in Houston and Dallas.

“We stand for the belief that there is tremendous talent behind bars and that our country will be better served by harnessing it,” said Pat Mcgee, a former inmate who is now PEP’s Prison Initiatives Manager. “PEP is not just a program; we are a revolution.”

Funded entirely through philanthropic grants and donations, the whole of American society is reaping the rewards. In 2013, Baylor University determined that delivers a 340% ROI (return on investment) for every dollar donated.

(WATCH the video below or READ more from the Associated Press)


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