Inmates to Entrepreneurs

Inmates to Entrepreneurs is the longest-running program of its kind. We help people overcome the stigma of a criminal background through entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship for all means that everyone deserves a second chance and the opportunity to become a successful business owner. If someone comes to your door and asks you if you would like your grass cut, you probably would not ask them if they have a criminal background. But, if you own a lawn-cutting business and are making a new hire, you will probably conduct a background check on the applicants. If an applicant’s background check reveals a criminal charge or previous incarceration, you will likely reject him or her as a candidate for the job. The extreme difficulty for those with a criminal background to find employment is expected to persist. We want to resolve this issue by helping people start, run, and grow their own businesses.

Background on the Problem

Every year, roughly 650,000 people will leave prison and attempt to rejoin their neighbors as productive members of society. Despite seeking employment at rates higher than the general population, formerly incarcerated individuals are half as likely to be hired because of their criminal background and, therefore, face unemployment rates five times the national average. In the Google era, a simple web search ensures that no one can ever truly escape their past. The discrimination that these would-be employees experience creates a cycle of economic insecurity that forces many to return to illegal activities just to survive. It is unsurprising, then, that nearly two-thirds of formerly incarcerated individuals find themselves back in prison in just three years.

I got more out of this class than I did in the last three years of going to school for business.

La'Kia Young Course Participant, Inmates to Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship allows individuals to start their own business and overcome the systemic discrimination they face in the job market. Our work through Inmates to Entrepreneurs provides individuals with a criminal background the resources and mentorship they need to overcome the stigma of their criminal charge and create a path to economic opportunity. We strive to halt the revolving door of prisons and prevent the societal harm of recidivism.


Conference Attendee