Texas Prison Entrepreneurship Program book and documentary
Following 150 Texas prisoners through a rigorous business plan competition and into the world outside. Book and documentary.
I've participated in and judged numerous business plan competitions, but nothing could have prepared me for the experience I had last December as a judge for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP).
I was drawn to the program because of its quantifiable results in reducing recidivism and finding work for released prisoners in Texas. But what stuck with me were the remarkable stories of these men, many of them multiple-time felons, and how the program pushed them over the top in their efforts to build a new life.
I wrote about that experience and some of those stories on Pegasus News, the news service I founded in Dallas / Fort Worth.
The response to that story, as well as a series of talks I gave afterwards, made me realize that there was interest in a deeper exploration of the program and the struggles, stumbles and triumphs of these men. I and the organization heard from interested volunteers, news organizations and even a major reality TV producer.
I've decided that the best way to approach this was to follow one class from recruitment through graduation while simultaneously following the recently-released graduates working in PEP transitional homes and co-working facilities. I hope to explore and better understand what divides the graduates from those who fall by the wayside, as well as how this changes the lives of the families involved.
The project has evolved into three key parts:
Book: I will write the book, scheduled for release in late 2012. I am in talks with multiple publishers, but in the unlikely event I am unable to secure one, I will self-publish both a printed book and an e-book. (Note that your support here will help make the case with potential publishers.)
Documentary: Masters students at the University of North Texas Mayborn School of Journalism will produce a documentary to be released at the same time as the book. I will be working with UNT professor Neil Foote to supervise that work. I have taken responsibility for covering all the costs of this documentary.
Digital community: On funding, there will be an online community that will begin sharing part of this work immediately and that will provide ongoing updates on the individuals profiled long after publication/release. I and the UNT students will post regular text, audio and video updates and engage in communication with supporters, even taking requests and suggestions for coverage angles.
Note: This is NOT an official project of PEP. We have their support in terms of providing us the necessary access to the people and information we need, but this is an independent project.
- (45 days)