Overview of PEP: the Prison Entrepreneurial Program

By Christopher Zoukis

A Houston-based non-profit, the PEP organization and its re-entry programs for male inmates released from prison are an innovative approach to reducing recidivism and helping men turn their lives around for good.  Founded in 2004, PEP effectively pairs newly released prisoners with executives, MBA students, and even politicians to form the basis of its entrepreneurial initiative.  Rather than focus on traditional prison education programs (i.e. liberal arts coursework), this program supports business and entrepreneurial pursuits. 

It’s All about Perspective

The people that created PEP or work within the program have a refreshing view of prisons.  They see them as a “storehouse of untapped potential.”  That perspective fuels the program’s success.  In fact, the PEP website goes so far as to suggest that many former prisoners they work with are already entrepreneurs; they just happened to be involved, oftentimes, with illegal businesses and practices.  Nevertheless, the organization seeks to capitalize on that seed of know-how or passion for business and to ultimately reshape it for legitimate entrepreneurial pursuits through mentoring and the development of both life skills and career skills.

Mission and Values of PEP  Image courtesy vimeo.com

The organization is committed to various tenets.  Its mission and vision can be found on its website; however, put simply, the group strives to provide people exiting prison with a fresh start.  Moreover, they embody the attitude that everyone deserves a second chance.  Professionals working as mentors in the program are also endowed with a commitment to service.  While they are leaders in their field, they also believe in the necessity to serve their communities.

That said, as new relationships are forged, all participants are encouraged to embrace qualities like integrity and accountability.  Working as an entrepreneur requires dedication and work.  The organization seeks to develop the tools that ex-prisoners need to rebuild their lives; participants are also expected to contribute a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn from others and embrace innovation and change. 

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