The McCuistion Show Profiles Jeremy Gregg from PEP

The McCuistion Show Profiles Jeremy Gregg from PEP

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program‘s Chief Development Officer Jeremy Gregg was recently interview on the McCuistion Show as part of their profile on the TED movement (“ideas worth spreading”).

Jeremy has delivered three TEDx talks related to PEP, which are available here. He spoke on the program with Dennis McCuistion (a former PEP volunteer!) about his talks and their impact on PEP.

(The program also features Jim Young and Heather Hankamer, the organizers of the TEDxSMU event in Dallas where Jeremy first spoke).

Jeremy’s part begins around minute 13:00. You can see the full video here.

Jeremy Gregg with TEDster Jim Young

Jeremy Gregg with TEDster Jim Young

Thanks to the generosity of our dear friend (and PEP Board Member) Britanie Olvera, our upcoming Kickoff Event for Class 22 will be sponsored by Building TEAM Solutions Inc.

The event will be held on Friday, July 25, 2014 from 11:30 am to 5:00 pm at the Cleveland Correctional Center in Cleveland, Texas (about 45 minutes North of Houston). You can learn more about the event and register here:

From the company’s site:

Building Team Solutions is a Central Texas recruiting and staffing firm that specializes in the areas of Construction, Facilities, Industrial and Manufacturing. With a concentrated focus on these core markets, we take a fresh approach to staffing – keeping in close step with each industry we serve and maintaining long-term, productive relationships with both clients and candidates. Honesty, integrity and dependability drive everything we do, and we love being a valued resource for the people of our community. We’re also the best in the business, offering diverse, flexible options to every client and comprehensive training to our applicants. Temporary staffing, permanent placements, executive recruitment and traveling crews are all on the table… whether you’re an applicant seeking work or an employer looking to hire the most accomplished candidate,YOU’RE our top priority – and we can’t wait to help you build the perfect team!

At the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, we are very proud to have Britanie and BTS on our team!

Check out this video from Britanie on one of our favorite topics … servant leadership.


wce-graphic2012Our friends at the University of Houston‘s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship won the Department of Energy’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition!  Led by Ken Jones and David Cook, this team nailed it, and took home the big prize (after competing against teams from Harvard, Stanford and more!).

The national competition offered three ways to win with an Audience Investor Choice Award, based on audience votes, a People’s Choice Award, based on online voting, and the Grand Prize selected by the judges.

REEcycle won them all, leaving the other finalists from Colorado, Georgia Tech, MIT, Michigan State and Ohio State in the dust, despite the professionals on some of their teams.

Here is why we are sharing this today:

Each of these winners previously volunteered in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program’s Business Plan Workshops, where they offered their insights to PEP participants in April and October 2013. In fact, two of them made the tremendous commitment to also serve as Business Plan Advisors to our participants. 

We are delighted to celebrate their success, and wish them and all of their classmates great success in their future, real world endeavors. Check out this article, which details the impressive victories along their journey:

Entrepreneur’s mantra:  Let’s make it happen………!

Each week, we read a number of prison and recidivism articles from various online resources. Here are our top picks from what we’ve read recently.

Let us know what you think about each of these articles! Please comment below or contact us via Facebook or Twitter.

Once a criminal, always a criminal?

This article points out that there is a higher recidivism rate among non-violent criminals. This is a rate we can do something about if we re-think the prison system.

What It’s Like to Get Online After 25 Years in Prison

Once inmates serve their time, are they prepared to survive in the world? Are we setting them up for failure? For some inmates, major changes have taken place in the world while they’ve been incarcerated. We can lower the recidivism rate if we can rethink the prison system, and give inmates life changing tools and skills.

The prison door keeps revolving

Plainly, there is something deeply disquieting about a democratic superpower locking up so many people that 25 percent of the world’s reported prisoners are housed in US cells. How can a country with an incarceration rate of 716 inmates per 100,000 residents, roughly five times the global average, think of itself as “The Land of the Free?”

What do you think? We’d love your feedback.

How can we can change these statistics?

Each week, we read a number of prison and recidivism articles from various online resources. Here are our top picks from what we’ve read recently.

Let us know what you think about each of these articles! Please comment below or contact us via Facebook or Twitter.

Interactive Map Shows How Much Prisons Cost in America:

The United States prison system is costing American taxpayers nearly $39 billion. This interactive map provides a great visual to show the distribution of this money. Check out the highest spending states: California at $7.9 billion, New York at $3.5 billion and Texas at $3.3 billion. It’s time we start to rethinking prison!

3 In 4 Former Prisoners in 30 States Arrested Within 5 Years of Release:

This information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics gives some interesting statistics about recidivism. Imagine just how low we can get the recidivism rate if we re-think the prison system.

America’s Recidivism Nightmare:

“One of the biggest factors [recidivism] is age. The prison population is getting older, Durose told The Daily Beast.” /blockquote>

This doesn’t have to be the case. There is an incredible amount of talent behind bars. We can tap this talent if we rethink prison.

What do you think?

Check out these great photos from the graduation of Class “Triumphant” 21 from the Prison Entrepreneurship Program!


Aaron BThe following letter was written by Aaron B., a graduate of PEP.


I was broken.

I was lost, far more than anyone I’ve ever known. I was not subject to a neglectful childhood; it was a life in which we did not want; not even a life light and with happy memories. I was a young man who could not stand the sight of others, would not listen to the wisdom of elders and refused to accept the good that life had to offer. I saw the world as broken and empty and made my decisions based on the idea that I could not do as much damage to the world as it had already done to itself; done to me. I accepted that I was stained and bad and that I would never be good enough to entertain the simple joys and pleasures of my family and friends.

I was unworthy.

I would not acknowledge my mistakes yet accepted them as part of life. I decided that there was no need to be better. I made choices that put me in places that I didn’t want to be, but understood that, because of how dark I was inside, my prison had no walls that I could scale, nor chains that I could break. I forfeited my rights, I forfeited my chance, and I forfeited everything that my family and friends had offered to me, yet I felt so little.

I was a creature lacking willpower.

I do not know what to say about how my life is, after participating in something like PEP. I cannot tell you where I would be otherwise or what I’d be doing. PEP did not change me, but it was there waiting to provide me a chance to change when I was ready. It is a long walk to go from wanting change in your life (because regardless of my acceptance of who I was I had decided that I would never go back into that place) and still accepting that your demons are a part of who you are and will always be there- and being able to wake up and not think that your darkness is overwhelming, to have positive, permanent change and be able to look yourself in the eye. My life was hard, and I was in prison, and I felt as though I was empty and lost.

My feelings were right.

But I have become a creature of willpower.

It is a struggle every day to decide that I am more than just the sadness and despair that once enveloped all I was. I work in a fantastic place, with fantastic people who make me feel appreciated. I have my own possessions, and can say that I am proud to take care of what is mine; to prove that things have some value to me, and it’s not destructive. I treasure those close to me, and some days are hard and it seems as though clouds cover all we do, but to feel true love for the people who are closest, and not have it tainted with the knowledge that we were doomed because of evils we cannot overcome is absolutely priceless. I cannot say that there are not dark days. I cannot say that some nights I don’t lay in the dark and wonder why I keep on fighting. I cannot say that the demons are not there, and that I do not still feel unworthy.

But I am more worthy than I was.

My prison was life. My prison was the overwhelming fear and self-hatred that comes with believing that every unthinking animal is better than you could ever be. The fears are still there. Now, though, my life has love that I can feel; that I can return. My life now has truth that I can hold dear. My life is not another day waiting for the dark to finally fall.

I have been broken.

But I am mending.


Several PEP graduates have been released from prison lately … take a look at these photos snapped by our re-entry team.

Each of these men was picked up directly from prison by a fellow PEP graduate who now works for PEP as a re-entry coordinator. These re-entry coordinators will guide the growth and continuing transformation of these newly released men, each of whom will be put to the test in the “free world.”

Please join us in welcoming our brothers home!

The following letter was written by Donny D., a graduate of PEP.


donny dPEP introduced me to a new way of thinking; one that was completely foreign to me before I went to prison.

I was released early so I was not able to complete the Business Plan Competition phase of PEP inside of prison with the rest of Class 17. But I am thankful that I was able to complete the first phase, called Effective Leadership, which was focused around character development.

The lessons that I learned in PEP were immediately put to the test after I was released from prison.

I moved into the PEP transitional house in Houston upon release, but only stayed for a short time. I thought I had it together, so I moved out and got my own place. I did great for a while but I became overwhelmed with life quickly. I took on a lot of responsibility, working two jobs and trying to take care of my family on my own. I began to stumble. I lost my jobs and my home. The last thing I wanted to do was ask anyone for help. My pride wouldn’t let me.

My closest friend is a PEP brother from my graduating class. I confided in him and he urged me to reach out to PEP. I did, with great reluctance of course, and PEP welcomed me back with open arms. They did not condemn me for my mistakes and rash decisions– there was only love and acceptance. It was as if I had never left!

Now, I am attending college, studying for an associate’s degree in machining technology. I have a great career path with a full-time position in my field. I’m confident with my head held high, more involved with the program and happy that I made a conscious decision to get back on track.

I learned through my struggle what PEP really is. It’s more than a program; it’s a brotherhood, a family. It has made a difference in my life. I don’t know where I would be without it.

Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP):

Watch this great video about a slightly different side of PEP … our etiquette classes taught by the one and only Colleen Rickenbacher!

(This story was originally featured on CW33)

Originally posted on CW33 NewsFix:

[ndn id=26213795]

Like it or not, It`s a human trait to sum up people by looks, and demeanor.  And most of those opinions of others are based on our first impressions.

ColleenColleen Rickenbacher knows this all too well. She teaches etiquette, protocols and communication skills to various groups of people. She saw a need for this in today`s society because technology has made us less personable.

Colleen has read various books and studied the fine art of civility, but nothing prepared her for what was to be asked of her. She was asked to teach etiquette at a prison in Cleveland, Texas.

Colleen smiled as she thought back to her first class there,’ I have to admit when I was asked to go to the prison it scared me to death.’

But in no time Colleen felt at ease as she saw that the prisoners were eager to learn, and…

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