Prison Entrepreneurship Program, a nonprofit that we’ve written about on Restore Justice in the past, is back in the news. This time, a recent study is reaffirming what volunteers and participants already knew: the measurable impact of PEP far exceeds that of its peers.
PEP regularly touts its exceptional results — low recidivism rate, numerous businesses started by its graduates, and short time from release to employment — but what has been harder to nail down is the economic impact of the program, particularly for those graduates returning to cities upon their release. However, recently the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) evaluated the program over a six-month period. They reviewed over 360 businesses started by graduates, thoroughly evaluating 189 of them, and interviewed many graduates.
The results are noteworthy.
Overall, the review found the PEP graduate businesses to have a collective economic impact for the state of Texas of $122.5 million annually, or $650,000 per business. The program also resulted in $4.3 million in state and federal savings because of participants’ low recidivism rate and low reliance on public assistance.
The study compared Texas businesses formed between 2004 and 2018 to businesses formed solely by PEP graduates and found that 57 percent of graduate businesses opened during that time period are still open. Only 53 percent of all Texas businesses opened during that time are still operational.
The study also found PEP has a one-year return on investment of 159 percent and a five-year ROI of 794 percent.
The success of the program shows why it has been expanding so rapidly and why volunteers are quickly finding themselves becoming “repeat attenders.”
PEP, and programs like it, are important because more often than not, most people incarcerated will likely return to their communities at some point. That’s why PEP is dedicated to reform.
The program started in 2004 with the goal of reducing recidivism and providing economic opportunities for incarcerated men nearing release. Utilizing an extensive, Baylor-approved entrepreneurship training program and much-needed re-entry services, PEP has created a successful formula.
Bryan Kelley, PEP’s new CEO (Chief Empowerment Officer), is quoted in the report saying, “We strive to empower our men to move from being tax consumer to taxpayers; from gang leaders to servant leaders; and from felons to real fathers and philanthropists.” Kelley is a graduate of the program himself.
What makes PEP special, other than the program participants, volunteers, and extensive curriculum, is the wraparound service they offer. They are one of the few programs that provides in-prison and post-release support.
In the roughly 14 years since it started, PEP has grown to serving four different units across the state. It provides participants transitional re-entry housing, post-release e-school opportunities, and most importantly, a network of supporters dedicated to seeing them succeed in the “real” world.
Preparing incarcerated people with opportunities for gainful employment helps make them contributors, rather than allowing them to go back to the behavior that landed them in their situation in the first place. PEP’s results show that investments while these men and women are inside not only benefit inmates, but taxpayers reap the benefits in the long run as well.