Standing in a prison chow hall, Richard Chavez Jr. outlines his past: violent felon, former gang member, the fourth member of his family to go to prison. Then his future: owner of a mobile counseling youth service that goes where the troubled kids are.
Arching a tattooed eyebrow, Chavez credits an innovative program run out of the Cleveland Correctional Facility, about 50 miles northeast of Houston, with helping him gather the skills to operate a business — from character-building and how to carry himself to writing a business plan and finding financing.
The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) is based on a philosophy that making inmates such as Chavez business savvy will reduce the likelihood that they will return to prison. It emphasizes reforming behavior while also working on a broader goal of reducing the prison population.