Rotarians learn about Prison Entrepreneurship Program
Every year, 45,000 prisoners are released from Texas prisons. They get $50 and a bus ticket back to where they came from.
“These men aren’t prepared to come back into society,” Al Massey told almost 30 Humble Rotary Club members attending the club’s weekly Zoom meeting. “All these men have is $50 in their pocket, a family that probably does not want to see them, and a felony record that prevents them from getting a job. These are the men you see asking for money on the streets because the last thing they want to do after prison is live in a halfway house. They’re finally free and they want their freedom.”
Massey knows what he is talking about. He is a reformed felon himself, and he has a plan to transform prisoners from tax consumers to taxpayers and productive citizens.
Massey is the executive relations manager-Houston for PEP. He described the effort that PEP goes through to create productive citizens when these men are released from prison. The men who are selected for the program go through The Leadership Academy which, Massey said, helps them to identify and remove the character traits and behaviors that prevent them from making a positive transformation.
Massey also described the “mini-MBA” program the men undergo, requiring each to write a business plan for launching his post-prison business. Each must complete a financial literacy course, an employment workshop, a business etiquette course, and a Toastmasters class before graduating with a certificate in entrepreneurship from the Baylor University Hankamer School of Business in a cap-and-gown ceremony, proudly attended by their family and friends.
“This may be the first time that families have seen their fathers, husbands, sons or brothers follow through, succeed and accomplish their goals,” Massey said. After graduation, the men live in one of five transition homes managed by PEP as they learn to reenter society with no excuse to return to a life of crime.
How successful is the program?
“The recidivism rate is low for those who go through the program,” Massey said. “When they get out, they’re earning $12 an hour. By the third year, they average $23 an hour and 42% of them own their own home, living the American dream, being a father, a husband and paying taxes.”
Massey described his former prison roommate who also went through PEP, learned to be a mechanic, earned more than $1.9 million last year and is continuing to expand his company.
The positive results of the program are staggering. More than 500 businesses have been launched by PEP grads. All are employed within 90 days of release from prison and nearly all are still employed after a year compared to a nearly 50% unemployment rate nationally among ex-offenders. Nearly half of ex-offenders return to prison while PEP grads have an exceptionally low, 8.3%, three-year recidivism fate.
“A Harvard study of this program disclosed that there is a 794% return on every dollar invested through PEP in these men. That is quite a return,” said Massey, who encouraged the Humble Rotarians to participate in PEP as mentors or financially.
It costs Texas taxpayers $31,000 a year to incarcerate prisoner while the PEP program can rehabilitate an ex-offender for $4,600, he said.
Learn more about PEP at pep.org.
The Humble club once again will participate in Operation Turkey on Thanksgiving Day according to Club President Mike Kevlin. The club is looking for volunteers and donations to fund meals that allow Rotary clubs through Houston to host Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless and the needy.
The Humble club also is looking for “ … lots of kids to participate in the Rotary Youth Exchange program,” according to member Susan Brodbeck. Rotary will host Zoom meetings in September to explain the three exchange programs — virtual cultural exchanges, short-term exchanges that last from six to eight weeks, and the yearlong international exchange program.
Interested students and families can learn more about the exchange program at ryehouston.com.