The effort to link MBA students with prisoners began in the fall of 2007 when John Jackson, Baylor BBA ’79, introduced Gary Carini, Associate Dean for Graduate Business Programs, to the Houston-based Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP). PEP helps prisoners develop viable business plans so they have a chance to transition from tax consumers to tax payers as they mobilize their entrepreneurial skills. Founded in 2004, PEP has over 1,300 graduates, 100% of whom are employed within 90 days of their release. More than 200 businesses have been launched, including six that generate over $1 million in gross annual revenue. The recidivism rate for the graduates is less than 7%, compared to nearly 50% nationally.
In the first semester, 5 MBA students worked with as many prisoners on their plans, assisting them with writing different sections, including the vision statement, market determination, financial analysis, competitive analysis, along with a discussion of the leadership team for the proposed business. Word spread within the MBA program, growing the number of MBA volunteers to 25 that next year. As of this fall, with an expansion to business graduate students in the areas of accounting, taxation, economics, and information systems, and the EMBA programs in Austin and Dallas, a total of 350 students have volunteered an estimated 3,000+ hours with prisoners at the Texas facilities in Cleveland and Venus.
In 2013, Baylor saw an opportunity to recognize the PEP participants even further and began granting prisoners a Certificate in Entrepreneurship after they complete their coursework. This certificate is the pride and joy of these men. It represents a significant accomplishment in their lives, and it is a great addition to their résumés that they present to future employers. To date, over 500 certificates have been issued. Baylor graduate students will continue to be an integral part of the hope that has been generated for these men. In doing so, Baylor students have the opportunity to have a significant impact on the lives of these men and their families.