Prisoners are the most unacceptable individuals in society. They need to be confined in the cells because they are dangerous for society. But at some moment in their lives, they were also someone who was acceptable.
Considering this into fact, there is hope to transform them once again into acceptable individuals of society. And this is what Defy Ventures, a United States-based non-profit organization is doing. A New Hope — working with prisoners to build professional skills and preparing them for life post-release.
Defy Ventures is working with prisoners to change their lives. Your New Life, the organization’s flagship program, includes an intensive, hundred-hour curriculum, pairing self-directed work with opportunities to present ideas to university professors, business leaders, and entrepreneurs.
The organization believes everybody deserves compassion. And that’s how they were able to transform thousands of prisoners.
In 2018, it reached over 3,000 inmates in 22 prisons, and its approach is working: Defy graduates have a 7.2 percent one-year recidivism rate, compared to 30.4 percent national average.
Prisoners who participate in the program are known as entrepreneurs-in-training or EITs.
Prisoner to Entrepreneur
In Kern Valley State Prison (prisoned roughly 3500 inmates) in California, a group of prisoners were pitching ideas to investors and entrepreneurs. All these prisoners were trained by Defy Ventures. Even though many have years to go before qualifying for parole, they’ve developed ideas for apps, food services companies, and even marketing agencies. One inmate, a convicted drug trafficker with no engineering background, has designed a water pressurization system that turns a sink into an overhead shower.
Steve Sims, a bestselling author, speaker, and founder of the luxury concierge service, Bluefish, who routinely brings groups of entrepreneurs to Kern to work with EITs, is one of the entrepreneurs who were there to listen to the ideas of prisoners.
He said, “ We’re asking them, ‘What problem are you solving? Why do you think you could be able to do it?’”
“We’re looking for where their passion lies, where their knowledge lies, and what they feel they can bring to the outside world that would generate an income for them and their future families.”
A Ray Of Hope
A few of the program’s graduates have found life-changing success. Quan Huynh, who spent 16 years in California’s Solano State Prison following a second-degree murder charge, launched a janitorial services company shortly after making parole in 2015. A few years later, the business has seven employees, five of whom have also been incarcerated, he says.
Well, not every inmate who participates in Defy’s programs will go on to launch their own business or do something big. Some will remain in prison for years to come, while others will inevitably struggle upon reentry to the outside world. But still, this initiative by Defy ventures is providing a fresh supply of hope to our society.
What do you think whether such initiatives should be promoted in a country like India? Please share your views in the comment section below.