Entrepreneurship education for prisoners




I taught in Cornell's Prison Education Program in the fall of 2009. My course was in entrepreneurship and the students did case studies and a mini-business plan on an original idea. Their performance was exemplary. Interacting with this particular student population was a new experience for me and I became aware of how important the program is to society as a whole.


Through reading and study, I became convinced that a key to rehabilitation and re-entry for prisoners is to have both education and practical training. Before my course, CPEP had not had any courses with business content. I felt that the entrepreneurship class would resonate with the self-determination of the students who qualify for the program and also help them think about their plans after prison. Even for those who are going to be in prison for a long time, the program offers a way to "stay human" and to improve their knowledge and ability to relate to their children and families.


The course attracted about 20 students, who worked on business plans and presented to a simulated panel of investors at the end of the term.


The most telling outcome was that one of my students worked on and presented a plan for a hair salon. He is soon to be released and is using the plan to actually start a small business. The "project" had an immediate impact on him, but others also said that it helped them shift their mindset to consider more entrepreneurial (legal) alternatives.

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Researchers involved: 

International focus: 

  • United States of America

United States focus: 

  • New York