Four large walls and 173 miles separate the Cleveland Correctional Center in Cleveland, Texas, from the Baylor University campus. But last month, those two very different worlds came together, just like they have twice each year since 2007.
Baylor entrepreneurship MBA students take part in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), an education and mentoring organization that works with prisoners who are within two to three years of release. Prisoners accepted into the faith-based program develop business plans and receive training in marketing, cost analysis, workplace skills and investor relationships, as well as integrity and leadership development.
Baylor’s trip to the correctional facility consisted of face-to-face visits with inmates whose business plans they were already reviewing. On his blog, MBA candidate Rich Lubbers sets the scene:
“One of the specific tasks that we did was hear them pitch business ideas. For ten minutes at a time, 90 of us went face to face with a convicted felon who was just beginning to work on a business plan. They told us their ideas, we tried to use whatever expertise to help them focus (and sometimes reorient) their thoughts. Simple. Easy. Right? Wrong.”
Lubbers, like many who take part in the program, felt that he learned as much from the prisoners as they did from him. Lubbers was surprised to realize that “when I got one-on-one, they were just like me … wanting to provide for their families … and a better life than the one they had chosen up to that point.”
The numbers show that Baylor students and others involved in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program are making a difference. The rate of recidivism for participants is less than 5%, with 100% employment within 90 days of release.
Sic ’em, Baylor entrepreneurship students and PEP graduates!