Harnessing prison ingenuity to get ex-cons on their feet

Prison Entrepreneurship Program
During the 6-month period of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program class, participants get a chance to speak one-on-one to dozens of different "free world" executives and entrepreneurs. They build a world-class contact list while in prison, which they can tap upon release to help them find jobs and launch their businesses.
Courtesy of Prison Entrepreneurship Program

When Jeff Smith, a state senator representing St. Louis, found himself behind bars for political missteps, he discovered a unique business world churning in prisons.

He saw that a meager prisoner's salary quickly leads to ingenuity. You have to figure out how to get what you want without much money. What Smith saw on the inside struck him as very similar to business leaders he had come in contact with outside of the penitentiary.

He's been released and has landed a job teaching at the New School. One of his crusades is to figure out a way to harness the ingenuity he experienced behind bars and getting ex-cons back on their feet with a business plan.

Jeremy Gregg works with the same population that Smith found so underutilized and inspiring. Gregg is the chief development officer of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, where inmates take classes on how to build a business.

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Smith and Gregg will join The Daily Circuit Thursday, Feb. 28 to talk about their efforts.


Jeff Smith's new beginning at The New School (The New School Free Press)

Mortal vs. venial (This American Life)