PEP Makes the News!
About four years ago, through FBCA, I became involved in PEP, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. You have probably heard the testimonies shared at several of our worship services and possibly have participated in events that FBC has hosted for PEP.
Over the past few years we have been involved with PEP at some level. But, during the recent time of reorganization of the PEP ministry, our involvement behind the prison wall has been less active than it was in the beginning. I want to share with you that PEP has blessed my life and urge you to join me “behind bars.”
First, I believe it’s important to remind you of the positive impact PEP has had on the families of men being released from our state prison system. The Texas State Department of Correction is the second largest prison system in the United States. The system has roughly a 32% recidivism rate. That means that 32 percent of everyone leaving prison is expected to return within a few years. PEP has graduated 710 former offenders and boasts a recidivism rate of less than 10 percent! Prison Entrepreneurship Program has saved Texas taxpayers five million dollars for every 150 men who graduate. Collectively, the graduates have paid an estimated $4,000,000 in taxes each year. Graduates have started businesses as well as become valued employees. They are now contributing members of our society.
The classes are chosen from a pool of approximately 170,000 male inmates from over 60 prisons in the state. When selected for the program, they are transferred to the Cleveland Correctional Facility in Cleveland, Texas, where they are then put through a process referred to as “degangsterization.”
Some of the men have great talents as salesmen and are gifted at marketing. They understand the law of supply and demand. Many of them are seasoned entrepreneurs having run successful enterprises such as drug rings and gangs. Though these activities are destructive and illegal, they have become highly influential leaders. If that talent and drive can be directed to something positive, imagine the possibilities! When a heart yearns for change, there is hope.
Business leaders, executives, MBAs and just regular people like me give their time and hearts during class sessions that teach business etiquette, selling skills and help in business planning workshops that climaxes in a business plan competition and graduation day. The investment of time through the mentoring process changes hearts forever. Because PEP is a Christian based ministry, it shows them God’s love like they have never experienced. The tools that they are given equip them to enter the “free world” successfully. My words could never adequately share all the positive results that PEP provides. Although I attend church regularly, I have never experienced true grace and redemption like I have behind those prison walls.
Each semester, PEP provides opportunities for volunteers from FBCA to go to the Cleveland Unit and work personally with the current class. This may be to help with a graduation ceremony, critique a student’s business plan, mentor a new entrepreneur as they get ready to face the business world outside of prison or simply to be a voice of encouragement.
If you would like to learn more about PEP, feel free to contact me or Steve Akin personally.