At the Cleveland Correctional Center in southeast Texas, selected prisoners learn about business skills in classes through the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, operated by a Houston nonprofit with the same name. Last month, the program partnered with Baylor University to offer certificates in entrepreneurship to every prison inmate who completes the program. Here is a series of photos highlighting the program. Photos by Tamir Kalifa, reporting by Maurice Chammah.
The Cleveland Correctional Center, 50 miles northeast of Houston, is a private prison operated by the GEO group under the authority of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The Prison Entrepreneurship Program is housed at the unit.
Bert Smith, a veteran businessman who is now CEO of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, teaches a weekly class to more than 100 inmates.
Inmates in the program use a curriculum that includes books used in master’s degree programs, as well as Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Morgan Crocker delivers his business proposal for a fitness training service to other inmates.
Days before his release from prison, Brandon Biko Reese reads during a session of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.
Surrounded by fellow inmates, Shawn Evans reviews his character assessment, a document detailing his strengths and weaknesses as measured by a class survey. Inmates complete character assessments for every member of the class.
Within the classroom, inmates are free to assist one another with work. Many graduates of the program attend the classes to support current students.
Inmates listen to a business proposal by one of their peers.
Reese is enthusiastically welcomed to the front of the room to give a farewell speech. In an effort to “de-gangsterize” inmates, administrators encourage them to dance and cheer for their peers whenever possible.
Inmates pray together for Reese before he is released.
Inmates leave the classroom at 4:30 p.m., the conclusion of their class day.
This article was originally published on Turning Prisoners Into Entrepreneurs