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Developing entrepreneurial talent among offenders

In-prison entrepreneurship programmes could play a key role in preventing re-offending, according to a report by Sheena Leaf, who spent eight weeks in Norway and the USA researching programmes aimed at rehabilitating offenders through developing their entrepreneurial skills.

shutterstock_21709462659% of people leaving prison following short sentences are reconvicted within one year of release. This costs the UK economy between £9.5billion and £13billion per year. Lack of access to employment is thought to be a major barrier to avoiding re-offending, with only 27% of people entering employment following release.

Sheena Leaf is a Torbay based social entrepreneur and a social enterprise consultant, facilitator and coach. Her travels were enabled by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship award, in partnership with the Prison Reform Trust.

During her travels, Sheena worked with the Prison Entrepreneurship Programme (PEP) in Texas, and interviewed entrepreneurs, programme supporters, Texas legislators, business schools and graduates of the programme, as well as their families. 1,500 prisoners have gone through the programme to date, which has led to the creation of 211 businesses, six of which have a turnover in excess of $1 million. Of those that have not gone on to develop their own businesses, or are waiting to start up, there is a 100% success rate in securing employment within 90 days.  Only 7% of PEP’s graduates go on to re-offend within 3 years.

Sheena’s research will inform the development of her own programme, ‘The Entrepreneur Inside’, which will utilise the knowledge and experience of local entrepreneurs, and promote ex-offenders who have created their own successful businesses as role models. Personal development, leadership skills and exposure to expert business advice will be embedded into the syllabus, and, once they leave prison, graduates will be supported with business placement, mentoring and start-up advice.

“As heard in the recent Queen’s speech, the government will legislate to reform prisons and courts to give individuals a second chance, and Prison Governors will be given unprecedented freedom to ensure prisoners receive better education. I’m looking forward to working with forward thinking Governors and staff who want to see people turning their lives around. I hope that my programme is just one way to support that effort” – Sheena Leaf

Sheena is currently in discussion with training and support organisations, regional business leaders and ex-offender entrepreneurs, about working in partnership with her on ‘The Entrepreneur Inside’ programme.

Read Sheena’s report here