Prison debate team fells an intellectual giant

It’s not all that often we get the chance to post a strictly “feel good” article on here, so when one comes along I’m going to jump on it. This past week Harvard University’s renowned debating team fell to a

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Prison Education: The Ultimate, Undeserved Freebie?

In this video, Richard French examines the idea of providing education for prisoners.  Although the idea sounds like the “ultimate undeserved freebie,” close inspection of programs such as Hudson Link prove that prison education turns around lives, reduces recidivism, saves

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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

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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Mentor vs. Tutor: Battle of Both Worlds

By Andres Aznar

In a world like ours – mostly free and full of possibilities – exists a threat. It affects virtually all of the world’s population. It’s called: “The Decision.” Decisions are made in seconds. In fact, without decisions, our lives would be meaningless. Naturally, we strive to make the right decisions in our short lives. However, every decision we make has its own consequences, good and bad. The decisions we choose to make in life can bring many rewards, like success in life or the creation of a better future for our children and their children. Good decision-making can also foster a life with fewer struggles and better opportunities.  Image courtesy

Some possess an enhanced ability to make decisions which allow positive consequences. They weren’t born with that ability. They just had very good guidance when they were children and while they were growing up. As such, those men and women are geared for success. Much comes easy to them. They’re the ones you remember from high school. The ones that you envied because they were always receiving perfect scores with seeming ease.

On the other hand, for some people, their life is a struggle: a struggle to make ends meet; a struggle to be the best that they can be. They try and try but always get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. While this is a challenging situation to be engulfed in, it illustrates a very telling contrast. By asking themselves, “Why is it so easy for those other people to succeed, but not me?” The answer – and their shortcomings – is evident: Guidance.

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From Loser to Distinguished Lawyer

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

All odds were against “Frankie” Guzman growing up without a father in the heart of a California neighborhood known for gang activity and crack cocaine rings. His father abandoned the family when Guzman was only three-years old.  Guzman was raised by a mother who commuted to the affluent community of Malibu, cleaning houses to support her family. By the time Guzman was an adolescent his father was incarcerated in a federal prison for attempting to cross the Mexican border with a large amount of cash.  Frank Guzman, Jr. / Image courtesy

Guzman’s brother “Freddie” was arrested when he was 17 for shooting a gang rival at a party. He was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 17 years to life in prison.

Guzman was enthralled by his brother and wanted to be with him even if it meant joining him in prison.

With no immediate male role model Guzman was on a downhill slope and going down fast.  His high school GPA went down to 0.8 and he was expelled from school for a fight in the boy’s restroom.

But Guzman’s troubles did not end there.   

Two weeks after being suspended from school, Guzman’s wish to be just like his big brother Freddie came true when he was arrested at 15. He and his friend stole a car and robbed a liquor store at gun point. Guzman was sentenced to 15 years at the California Youth Authority.

During incarceration Guzman had plenty of time to earn his GED — twice. He made valuable use of his time attending every class he possibly could while confined behind bars.

Just when Guzman was beginning to be inspired by education, events in the outside world crumbled his new found motivation for success.

 Guzman’s uncle, the only male role model he had left that was not behind bars, passed away after a long addiction to drugs and alcohol and his best friend was killed in a gang fight.

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