The businesspeople visiting gushed over the program:
In five years, 440 prisoners have graduated from the four-month Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP). The majority have landed good, honest jobs within the first month of release. Fifty-eight have started their own business, ranging from landscaping to software development. PEP´s volunteers number more than 450 MBA students and more than 1,000 business executives. ...
While first-time volunteers may have entered with an “It’ll feel good to help these less fortunate souls” attitude, we were all shocked to be learning from them.
The men were so polite and eager to learn, we couldn’t help but open our hearts. You’ve heard before that we have something to learn from everyone. I sincerely think that often, but am seldom able to consistently maintain that view. That day, I went with the attitude of looking forward to sharing my business knowledge. What was I, a business professional, going to learn from a murderer?
PEP is largely about building character. It’s making men act like real responsible men. Participants take classes on etiquette, substance abuse, relationships and fatherhood.
The theme from the business leaders was summed up by one volunteer, “I came here in fear for my life, and I leave here dumbfounded at my misconception. Outside these walls are people that are so fearful of everything, especially in this economic condition — and the most joy, love and happiness I have seen in years is within this room. Thank you for your inspiration.”From everything I've heard PEP is a wonderful but small program with a long waiting list. Particularly given the level of support Rohr has been able to garner from the business community, TDCJ would probably get a lot of anti-recidivism bang for the buck by investing state resources to expand it.