Entrepreneurship education for prisoners

Date: 

2009

Summary: 

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.

Issue: 

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.

Response: 

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.

Impact: 

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.

Submitted by: 

Researchers involved: 

International focus: 

  • United States of America

United States focus: 

  • New York