Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Defy Ventures--Breaking the Cycle of Generational Incarceration

Ex-cons make the best entrepreneurs. Many of the talents and skills learned by running drug networks on streets are the same skills needed to run a successful start-up.

That's the sentiment of Catherine Hoke (Rohr), founder of Defy Ventures, a non-profit that takes ex-cons from prison, provides an MBA-type education, and teaches them how to create and run a successful entrepreneurial start-ups, how to be their own boss.

Catherine became motivated to start her nonprofit after visiting the Texas prison system. Most of the prisoners she saw were incarcerated for hustling, gang activity, and misdemeanor. She saw what others might not see--talented men and women who ran and managed successful businesses via illegal methods.

The nonprofit sprang from the notion, "If these men and women had "access to the fundamentals of legal business and a support network to coach them," these former ex-cons could become highly successful entrepreneurs.

For the ex-cons entering her program, become a boss was very appealing. Being an ex-con isn't simply a negative stigma, it's an entire mindset that needs a serious overhauling. And it's a burden that weighs heavily on the psyches of those released from prison.

It also makes reintegration into society extremely difficult, so difficult that a year after release from prison, "up to 60% of formerly incarcerated people don't have jobs" according to Business Insider. Without a job and a change in mindset, of the 650,000 people who are released annually from prison, over two-thirds will be rearrested within three years.

In addition, these men and women who only know life in the prison system will set up a legacy for their children. According to Hoke, "70% of children of prisoners follow in their fathers’ footsteps." She felt the best way to break the generational pattern of incarceration was to teach ex-cons how to become legal providers, active parents, and community leaders.

If you know of someone who might benefit from Catherine Hoke's vision, drop her note.

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