Female Inmate Entrepreneurs

June 7th, 2011 in Archive by 0 Comments

Morning Edition aired a new story today by Portland-based radio producer (and former Kitchen Sisters intern) Deena Prichep. The piece takes a look at an inmate education program at an Oregon’s women’s prison.

The project, called LIFE (Lifelong Information For Entrepreneurs), trains women to start their own businesses.

Former convicts can have a difficult time finding a job, especially when the economy is weak.

But at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, a women’s prison in Oregon, inmates can learn how to reverse that trend. A course called Lifelong Information For Entrepreneurs, or LIFE, is designed to provide inmates the skills to start their own small businesses after they are released.

MercyCorps Northwest, the Portland-based branch of an international development organization, started the program four years ago. Doug Cooper, assistant director of MercyCorps Northwest, says the program was built out of MercyCorps’ experience in international aid.

“We were looking for ways that we could apply our expertise around economic development and small business management to populations that could use it,” Cooper says. “It’s identical to what we do internationally, except we apply it here in Oregon and Washington.”

Graduates have opened various businesses, such as courier companies and cosmetology practices, and sell crafts at farmers markets. Although MercyCorps Northwest could not provide an official count yet, the organization says, unofficially, only three of the LIFE program’s 100 or so graduates have reoffended. The national average is more than 50 percent.

LISTEN to the story at NPR.org

And listen to more of Deena’s stories at her website, deenaprichep.com

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