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109 Prisoners To Seek Certificates in Entrepreneurship from Baylor University in Partnership with Prison Entrepreneurship Program

Feb. 20, 2013

Earlier this year, 109 male prisoners began to pursue their Certificates in Entrepreneurship from Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business through a partnership with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

"We offer a 'mini MBA' program within the Texas prison system that transforms inmates into entrepreneurs," said Bert Smith, CEO of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP). Through the program, the inmates also develop complete business plans for a real venture that they can pursue after release.

During PEP's Business Plan Competition at the Cleveland Correctional Center north of Houston, at 11:30 a.m., Friday, Feb. 22, these inmates will pitch their business plans to more than 50 "free world" executives, entrepreneurs and MBA students who attend PEP's in-prison events.

Founded in 2004, PEP is a privately-funded nonprofit that engages executives, entrepreneurs and MBA students as volunteers in a values-based entrepreneurship boot camp that is offered within the Texas prison system. Each year, more than 5,000 inmates apply to be a part of PEP - but only the top 5 percent are selected for this elite program.

"Our graduates invest over 1,000 hours of work into our six-month Business Plan Competition class, which incorporates a college-level curriculum supplemented by Harvard MBA cases, the AP Writing Stylebook, Toastmasters, an employment workshop and a financial literacy course," Smith said. "In addition, we focus at least half of our time on character assessment and development, built around PEP's Ten Driving Values."

"What impresses me the most is how these men not only complete this very rigorous program within a prison, but they do so while completing a full business plan for a real venture that they can launch after release from prison," said Dr. Gary Carini, associate dean of the Graduate Program in Management & Entrepreneurship at the Baylor University Hankamer School of Business, and a member of the governing board for PEP.

Over the course of their involvement in PEP, graduates will pitch their plans more than 20 times. This includes presenting their plans before panels of executive judges in a "Shark Tank" format at PEP's monthly events. The presentations prepare the men for making their case in the free world - including to potential employers once they are released.

"I had been arrested four times before my 21st birthday," said Harvey M., who graduated from PEP's Class 10. Harvey is now rolling his first food truck in Houston. "Most of the world had written me off - but not PEP. They gave me the tools that I needed to succeed and even helped me to open my own business."

Thanks to the preparation that they receive while in PEP, 100 percent of PEP's graduates find a job within 90 days of release from prison. More than 120 of them have started their own businesses, including at least two that are now grossing more than $1 million in annual sales. And most impressively, the organization boasts some of the lowest recidivism rates in the country: less than 7 percent of PEP's 2009 graduates returned to prison within three years, compared to the national average of nearly 50 percent.

"After reviewing the caliber of PEP's curriculum and the quality of their results, Baylor University has agreed to award a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from the Hankamer School of Business to every graduate from PEP," stated Carini.

The partnership began in December 2012, when 70 PEP graduates earned their certificates by completing the PEP Business Plan Competition class and graduating in a full cap-and-gown ceremony on Dec.7, 2012.

ABOUT PRISON ENTREPRENEURSHIP PROGRAM

Established in 2004, Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) is a Houston-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We are servant leaders on a mission to transform inmates and executives by unlocking human potential through entrepreneurial passion, education, and mentoring. Our groundbreaking results include a three-year return-to-prison rate as low as

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