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Correctional Systems

by: Dominique O'Kon

Correctional Systems CJUS 3400

Dominique O'Kon
GPA 3.83

Ashley Blackburn

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Ashley Blackburn
Class Notes
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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Dominique O'Kon on Sunday October 25, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to CJUS 3400 at University of North Texas taught by Ashley Blackburn in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 39 views. For similar materials see /class/229200/cjus-3400-university-of-north-texas in Criminal Justice at University of North Texas.


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Date Created: 10/25/15
In its rst four years Catherine Rohr s Prison Entrepreneurship Program shows some success in turning drug dealers and otherconvicts into legit businessmen BY VINCE BEISER ith a last anxious glance at the notes in his hand Mike Nagle launches into his pitch Hi I m the owner and founder of Amp Welding Service where we t it right and weld it tight begins the tall mus cular Nagle his weight shifting from foot to foot We re a welding company serving the oil and natural gas industry Nagle barrels along into a break down of the business revenue model as Catherine Rohr looking every inch the corporate professional in her perfectly creased pinstriped pants and white shirt takes careful notes The presentation which aims to get investment for Nagle s business and comes complete with detailed pro t and loss projections and market analysis sounds like a lot of pitches Rohr has heard in corporate meeting rooms from NewYork City to Silicon Valley But this one is a little different It s taking place inside aTexas prison and the prospective entrepreneur is serving four years for sticking up a stranger in a parking lot Rohr a slender 31 year old with glossy shoulderlength auburn hair used to be a high ying executive in the venture capital industry advis ing wealthy investors on which busi nesses to support Now she offers her expertise to a much less likely group of entrepreneurs Rohr left her old life four years ago to start the Prison Entrepreneurship Program a nonpro t that teaches incarcerated would be Horatio Algers to apply their talents to the legitimate marketplace After all assessing risk handling cash ow and managing 40 MILLER MCCUNE MAYJUNE 2009 MILLERMCCUNECOM 41 ALMOST ALL OF THE PROGRAM S GRADUATES HAVE FOUND IOBS AFTER THEIR RELEASE AND 57 HAVE STARTED THEIR OWN BUSINESSES RANGING FROM LANDSCAPING TO DOG TRAINING IUST SHV OF 9 PERCENT HAVE SO FAR WOUND UP BEHIND BARS AGAIN AN IMPRESSIVE STATISTIC IN A STATE WITH A RECIDIVISM RATE OF AROUND 30 PERCENT distribution networks are as important to succeeding on a drug corner as they are in a corporate corner of ce These men aren t locked up because they were bad businessmen she says They re locked up because they lacked moral values So far the program has put 440 male inmates through four months of classes in which volunteer executives and MBA students from the likes of Harvard and Stanford help them develop business plans Applicants are care fully screenedThey must be within a year of their release renounce gang af liations and submit to several tests and interviews Only about I in 7 is accepted Nearly half are kicked out over the course of the program for infractions ranging from cheating on tests to maintaining gang ties PEP also provides crucial support after release Staff members pick up each graduate at the prison gate and help him nd a place to stay At the organization s headquarters in a north Houston of ce park program grads choose suits from a room full of donated business clothes Postrelease classes39and mentoring opportunities are available Rohr and her husband even take the men out to the beach or the movies sometimes and organize holiday parties for them By the organization s count almost all of the program s graduates have found jobs after their release and 57 have started their own businesses ranging from landscaping to dog training Just shy of 9 percent have so far wound up behind bars again an impressiVe statistic in a state with a recidivism rate of around 30 percent No question it s an innovative model with a lot of promise says Amy Solomon a researcher at the Urban Institute specializing in prisoner re entry issues That record is bringing the program major supportThe Texas Department Of Criminal Justice gave it an award for being the state s most innovative volunteer program in 2007 The group s budget donated by individuals and foundations including a recent 750000 grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation swelled from nothing in 2004 to 325 million last year PEP now has 26 employees many of them program graduates PEP is one of a handful of initiatives that have sprung up around the country in recent years to teach inmates business skills as a way to boost their chances for suc 42 MILLERMCCUNE MAYJUNE 2009 cess after releaseThe need is certainly thereThe number of prisoners in the United States stands at a record high of nearly 23 million more than any other country on Earth Every year 650000 of those convicts are released But within three years studies show that upward of half wind up back behind bars Rohr thinks that if more of them knew how to make money legally more of them would stay on the outside ohr grew up comfortably in Northern California the daughter of a Stanford engi neering professor and a stay at home mom But she s hardly a shrinking violet as a teen ager she was a state wrestling champ and later won a national jujitsu competition After earning a business degree from the University of California Berkeley she dove into the de manding world of venture capitalism She was unusually focused for someone her age says Peter Chung a manag ing partner at the Palo Alto rm Summit Partners who hired her right out of college Rohr s goals in those days were straightforward My life was all about me making more mOney and getting a bigger house she says Things began to change when she was 25 she says She and her husband Steve Rohr a lawyer started attending the River Church a Bay Area house of worship with an empha sis on social justice work Rohr s Catholic upbringing had never meant much to her but her new pastor convinced her to start living a life of loving God as Rohr puts it That year she and Steve volunteered on a churchspon sored trip to work with HIV infected orphans in Romania It was the rst time I had been away from my Blackberry and all the other comforts of my life And it was the rst time I d had injustice really in my face like that she says Something in her responded deeply She began looking for a way to help others full time Soon afterward the couple moved to Manhattan where Rohr took a new job with American Securities Capital Partners In her spare time she studied philanthropy at New York University In April 2004 a friend invited her to tour some Texas penitentiaries with the ministry of former Watergate con he w mm spirator Chuck Colson Rohr had never been in a prison or met a prisoner in her life but had strong opinions about them I was totally the lock em up and throw away the key type she says But the trip changed her outlook and ultimately her life To her surprise the men she encountered inside were po lite well behaved and often highly intelligent I thought I was going to see caged animals but instead I saw other hu man beings she says I was really ashamed of how ugly and closed my heart had been I realized I didn t believe these guys were worth redemption Her other big surprise was learning how businesslike criminal gangs are complete with the equivalent of man agement teams pricing strategies and bookkeepers These guys had the exact pro le of the entrepreneurs I pursued in venture capital Rohr says It s just that their business had been illegal So I thought What if we equipped them to use their skills for good Rohr went home worked her Rolodex and returned a month later This time she brought along a volunteer group of executives who delivered a twohour business training seminar at the Carol Vance Unit a lowsecurity facility Rohr had visited on her tour Fifty ve inmates showed up She followed up by designing a competition for prison ers who had created business plans A few months later she and Steve quit their jobs cashed out their 401 ks and moved to Texas so Rohr could devote herself full time to launching PEP I was highly surprised says Glenn Kaufman her former boss at American Securities Rohr was making six gures at the time When someone tells you they want to leave their career and where they live to go do something like that you can say either You re crazy or You re tal ented so there must be something to this My reaction was Wow Tell me about it Kaufman now serves on PEP s advisory board Rohr and her husband worked together at rst but he later took a job at a local law rm his income along with Catherine s modest salary allowed them to move into a stately brick home near a golf course But it wasn t easy getting startedThe Rohrs rst rolled into Houston at 1 am in a rented minivan lled with of all their belongings From left PEP graduates Mike Nagle Jeffrey Offutt Bruce Stubbs and James Cooper Too tired to unload they left the van parked on the street By daylight everything had been stolen The program had to be built from scratch with volun teer labor in the face of skeptical prison of cials and con stant personal disappointments for Rohr Several students borrowed money from her and then vanished or stole things outright More than a few have slipped back into ad diction crime and incarceration The last four years have been the most dif cult gut wrenching tear jerking of my life Rohr says I might have chickened out if I knew what was coming but I never miss my old life I m crazy about what I get to do every day now he Prison Entrepreneurship Program is housed in the Cleveland Correctional Center a low gray cinderblock complex surrounded by a concertina wire topped fence in the pine woods an hour north of HoustonThese days Rohr spends most of her time traveling meet ing with donors and recruiting new inmates in scores of other Texas lockups But she comes back to lead the course a day or two each week On a morning last July the 39 men in the program s current class le in from their austere cellblocks to a car peted meeting roomThey re mostly in their 203 and 30s all in prison issue blue sweatpants and T shirts Heavily tattooed their skin is white black or brown normally iron dividing lines in prison But in here they all greet each other with warm vigorous hugs Rohr cues up some thumping dance music Prissy she calls Bambi In response one by one each prisoner shim mies and shakes up to the ont of the room to the cheers and hollers of the rest Every one of the drug dealers armed robbers and murderers in the program gets one of these deliberately eifeminate nicknames It s one of several tactics aimed at getting them to drop their toughguy facades and bond with one another Amazingly the ploy actually works Holding up that front in prison gets so tiresome It s a relief to be able to be stupid and silly to be the kid you MILLERMCCUNECOM 43 STARTING A BUSINESS CAN IN FACT BE AN EASIER WAY TO MAKE A LIVING THAN FINDING A TRADITIONAL JOB SINCE EXCONVICTS ARE BARRED IN MANY STATES FROM WORKING IN A RANGE OF OCCUPATIONS FROM FINANCIAL SERVICES TO CHILD CARE AND MOST PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYERS AREN T EXACTLY THRILLED TO SEE A FELONY RECORD ON A RESUME never were says Bruce Stubbs a 25yearold former methamphetamine dealer who was released last summer after completing the program He s now doing clerical work at a law rm while taking classes at a Houston col lege Ms Rohr gave up everything to get this program off the groundYou can see her sincerity That s what lets her break down those barriers After much trial and failure Rohr has learned that the in mates need more than just legitimate business skills to make it in the free world Many have serious psychological and substance abuse issues that will trip them up again as soon as they walk out the prison gate So in addition to classes on accounting and brand management the program provides training in life skills everything from opening a bank account to politely avoiding old drug buddies Through a 14 hour day of classes and discussion Rohr never stops radiating good cheer smiling sunnily and leavening her lectures with jokes and teasing digs at the students the staff and herself Standing at her podium or prowling the room she s a combination teacher revival minister and motivational speaker exhorting the men to believe they can succeed while still holding them to ac count for their past mistakes For all her warmth she can also be a stern even self righteous judge especially considering she has no formal training in this sort of counseling The most common pitfall Rohr tells the men is getting involved with the wrong wom en When you rst get out you guys latch onto the rst woman you see because you re so needy for female compan ionship she lectures You have nothing to offer and you go after these girls with nothing who are trying to feed ve kids it s patheticWVhere s your manhood in that You guys think you re on a low scummy level because you re in here But you re notYou re great men And if you d just believe that and carry yourselves that way you d attract great women Later in the day Rohr gathers the men in a circleThey spend a couple of hours discussing their family troubles and hopes for the future like a bunch of Oprah guests One man talks about his rage and depression over his wife getting pregnant by another man while he s been locked up Another wonders how he can convince his teenage son 44 MILLER MCCUNE MAYJUNE 2009 to listen to his advice when he feels like such a dismal role model To see other guys bare themselves this way is re ally moving says Daniel Ingle 26 in for six years on a burglary charge This program is about learning how to live and how to think right rom NewYork to Oregon at least half a dozen programs are trying to turn inmates into entre preneurs Research suggests many individuals with criminal records possess high entrepreneur ial aptitude especially those convicted of drug dealing and share common traits ascribed to success il entrepreneurs notes Nicole Lindahl assistant director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at The John Jay College of Criminal Justice in a recent monograph A study by University of California Santa Cruz economist Robert Fairlie for instance found that young people who dealt drugs were more likely than their nondealer peers to choose legitimate self employment later in life Starting a business can in fact be an easier way to make a living than nding a traditional job Lindahl notes since ex convicts are barred in many states from working in a range of occupations from nancial services to child care And most prospective employers aren t exactly thrilled to see a felony record on a r sum Certainly self employment isn t for every ex con many of them can barely read or do basic math let alone ma nipulate a spreadsheet Still Lindahl writes even if only a tiny fraction of the vast number of people returning home from prison pursued self employment it could make a signi cant impact If between 1 and 7 percent of people leaving state or federal prison next year started their own businesses 6500 to 45000 new businesses would be created in the United States The theory sounds good Solid data however are still in very short supply These programs are only a few years old and include at most only a few hundred participants each which means the whole movement is still too new and small to yield reliable information on its long term success Starting and running a business is very dif cult Most people with business backgrounds don t succeed at it notes Richard Greenwald a senior fellow specializing in A graduating class with Rohr in the middle at Texas39 Cleveland Correctional Center March 2008 prisoner post release issues at the Manhattan Institute There are extra obstacles for ex cons Greenwald notes If you have to report to your parole of cer at certain hours that gets in the way of hustling for business Indeed of the 57 businesses launched by Prison Entrepreneurship Program grads 25 have already closed down ut the biggest questions around programs like PEP is the extent to which they can get career criminals to permanently change their ways The program s 9 percent recidivism rate looks great but it includes some former inmates who have only been ee for a few months The same goes for a similar program run since 2004 by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections of 317 inmates who have completed the training only 5 percent have wound up back behind bars so far Michael Cevallos is a perfect example of the promise and the pitfalls of these programs Last summer I met him on a baking hot day in Houston for a quick lunch at Jack in the Box His moving company was so swamped with customers that he d had to rent an extra truck and hire three guys to help haul furniture A compact ener getic man wearing a sweat stained polo shirt and a neatly barbered brush of gelled up hair Cevallos had launched the business just two months earlier upon his most recent release from prison where he s spent a total of 23 of his 40 years on a series of burglary and drug offenses I started smoking weed at 8 and I was selling dope with my old man at 12 he said with a toothy grin I ve been an entre preneur for a long time It was PEP that inspired him to go legit Ms Rohr is an extraordinary teacher bro he says She loves us un conditionally She makes us want to do the best we can That however isn t always enough A few months after I met him Cevallos was arrested for cocaine possession and shipped back to the penitentiary for eight months It was a PEP staff member who told Cevallos parole of cer that he had fallen off the wagonThat s Rohr s policy Drug offenders are dangerous They rob they steal and they need to be taken off streets she says I believe in redemption and grace But until people are rehabilitated they shouldn t be released back to society Stories like Cevallos are a disappointment but they re still a small minority among PEP graduates And they haven t changed Rohr s mind about what she s doing People ask Why put all these resources into helping people who have done wrong Rohr says Well everyone has done wrong I always ask our critics What s the worst thing you ever didgt And what if you had to write that on a job application These men have been takers their whole lives We want them to become taxpayers and donors and philanthropists BE Vince Beiser is a Miller McCune contributing editor based in Los Angeles MILLERMCCUNECOM 45


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