Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Praise for PEP

There's a nice column in the Houston Chronicle about a visit by a group of businesspeople to Catherine Rohr's much acclaimed Prison Entrepreneurship Program ("What can we learn from prisoners?," June 7), which apparently made quite an impression:

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 businesspeople visiting gushed over the program:
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.


Anonymous said...

Wow, that is so wonderful. This program must be expanded.

ridgedog said...

My son is in the class graduating this Friday (Class XI) and I am so thrilled that he was accepted into this program. Not only has he learned the fine points of creating and growning his own business, but he has developed the positive character I always knew he could have. He not only sees the right choices to make, but he strives to help others avoid the mistakes he has made. He wants to give back to society and especially to repay the emotional and spiritual gifts he has gained from Katherine Rohr and the PEP staff.

Anonymous said...

Some of these men would do a wonderful thing to motivate some of the TYC youth. Show them it is real, that life has different avenues, and that you can change. Maybe PEP should start an apprentice program?

Anonymous said...

The great Senator from Houston, John Whitmire, went after this amazing program a few years ago because Ms. Rohr had the courage to speak up against his arrogant rantings. God has blessed her and all whom come into contact with her.

lucas law center said...

I agree with you there Anonymous. this program must be expanded. Great job as always!