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United Kingdom: 80% of Prisoners Aspire to be Entrepreneurs, Opportunity Fund Helps

A May 2016 report from the Centre for Entrepreneurs found that 80% of prisoners in England and Wales are interested in starting their own business, as compared to about 40% of the general population. The report, “From Inmates to Entrepreneurs: How Prison Entrepreneurship Can Break the Cycle of Reoffending,” said that many of the traits displayed by former prisoners – such as personal innovation, the desire for independence and a need for self-achievement – make them suitable for business ownership. It also emphasized that a criminal record doesn’t stand in the way of becoming self-employed, and no formal qualifications are required.

Building on the report’s suggestion that business ownership reduces recidivism, a group of organizations collaborated to create the Enterprise Exchange, which specializes in helping people overcome barriers to becoming self-employed or starting a business. Prisoners with an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to work hard can receive help from the Exchange’s “Opportunity Fund.” For example, with the assistance of the Enterprise Exchange, former prisoner Joe Davis developed a business plan and opened a South American restaurant. The eatery, Panama Joe’s, currently employs five staff members and has a 4-star rating on the traveler’s review website TripAdvisor.

“The past is the past,” Davis said. “My future is different and much better.”

The report described several other case studies where former prisoners successfully started their own businesses, and also cited the Texas Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) as an example of a similar initiative in the United States.

“Since its foundation in 2004, [PEP] has served over 1,300 prisoners and achieved a reoffending rate of below 7% over three years, compared to the national U.S. average of almost 50%. Its graduates have set up over 200 businesses, including six that generate over $1 million in annual revenue,” the report stated. 



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