This year, nearly 700,000 people will be released from state or federal prisons. They will join the worst economy in decades, many of them with limited education and little or no legitimate employment experience. And a criminal record will make it that much harder to find a job.
Yet newly released prisoners need to work, not just to support themselves or their families, but also because having a job correlates with staying out of trouble. One study, in December 2006, found that 89 percent of people who violate the terms of their parole or probation were unemployed.
“We try to help these guys realize that the skills they already possess from illegal ventures have real value in the business world,” explains Catherine Rohr, founder and chief executive of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, based in Houston. “Major drug dealers are already proven entrepreneurs.”
Since the program’s inception, 441 men, roughly a quarter of whom had been incarcerated for violent crimes, have graduated. Just over 8 percent have returned to prison — nationally, the recidivism rate exceeds 25 percent.
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