The State of Oregon Department of Corrections, partnering with several other sponsors, has promoted a different paradigm for inmates in its Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. MercyCorps of the Northwest (MCNW) is spearheading an effort there to teach self-employment and microenterprise development skills to women in prison who are up for parole within 18-24 months.
LIFE (Lifelong Information For Entrepreneurs), as the program is (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) named, helps students establish productive lives after incarceration. Benefits to society include reducing repeat offenses, lowering law enforcement costs, and the burden to society of paying for people to be locked up when they could be out in the workforce or creating small businesses.
Participants in the LIFE program work with mentors before, during, and after their release from prison. Thanks to a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation‘s Local Funding Partnership, participants are actually rewarded with up to $500 to help them with reentry. The money comes with strings attached…students have to execute a savings plan, consistently attend programs and courses, complete homework, and complete a business plan.
Watch a video of the program here:
If successful, the program should have many supporters and has real potential to be rolled out nationwide.
Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill), and covers green business strategy on GreenBusinessOwner.com.
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