Incarceration rates for U.S. residents nearly tripled between 1987 and 2007. At present, there are upwards of 2.1 million individuals being held in federal or state prisons or in local jails; it is estimated that over 93 percent of these offenders will one day return to their local communities. One of the greatest challenges they face is finding and securing employment, which is often mandated by a court as a condition of their probation or parole. This is due to a combination of factors, including a declining number of manufacturing jobs, lower skills and educational levels, the inability to secure appropriate licensures with a felony conviction, and research findings that two-thirds of employers would not knowingly hire ex-felons. Yet, reports of post-release outcomes indicate that the greater the educational opportunities offered to those in prison, the higher their desistance (and reduced recidivism). This paper explores the merits of offering entrepreneurship or small business management workshops/programs within prison walls, since becoming an entrepreneur and launching ones own small business may be one of an ex-felons only viable career opportunities. The paper outlines issues facing ex-offenders, presents an overview of the characteristics of pre-release programs nationwide, profiles noteworthy programs, offers conclusions based on findings, and develops recommendations for future research opportunities.
Faculty Mentor: Nancy Levenburg, Management
Nikki presented at the New York University Stern School of Business Conference on Social Entrepreneurship November 4-7, 2009 in New York, NY.