When individuals re-enter society after serving time in prison, they often face numerous challenges, from finding stable housing to securing employment. One aspect that has been overlooked in the UK is the absence of programs specifically designed to nurture entrepreneurial skills among ex-prisoners. Research indicates that many individuals leaving incarceration possess entrepreneurial traits such as self-sufficiency, creativity, and a willingness to take risks. In contrast to the United States, where successful programs like Inmates to Entrepreneurs have thrived, the UK lags in providing comprehensive support for ex-prisoners looking to start their own businesses.
Entrepreneurship Programs in the US:
In the United States, initiatives like the Inmates to Entrepreneurs program have proven successful in equipping ex-prisoners with the skills needed to establish and run businesses. Offering an eight-week course that blends face-to-face and online instruction, the program has seen over 30% of its participants go on to start their own businesses. Notably, ex-prisoners in the US are 41% more likely to become self-employed than their counterparts. Smaller programs, such as Washington DC’s Aspire and the Texas-based Prison Entrepreneurship Program, have demonstrated remarkable success in reducing reoffending rates.
Entrepreneurial Potential in the UK:
Despite approximately 80% of UK prisoners expressing interest in entrepreneurship, the current provision for such programs is significantly limited. The Centre for Entrepreneurs estimates that with adequate support, ex-prisoners in the UK could establish nearly 11,000 businesses annually. Currently, London’s Project ReMAKE, conducted by Queen Mary University, is a notable initiative, providing an eight to 12-week program for around 15 ex-prisoners each year. Impressively, none of the program’s graduates have reoffended.
Promising Results from Previous Programs:
The Centre for Entrepreneurs suggests that a nationwide entrepreneurship program in the UK could reduce the reoffending rate to 14%, a stark improvement compared to the 46% norm. Previous initiatives, such as the Prince’s Trust program in the mid-2010s, demonstrated success, with 78% of businesses founded by ex-prisoners reaching the two-year survival mark – mirroring the success rate of program participants as a whole.
The Scottish Context:
In Scotland, where imprisonment rates are notably high, particularly for women, there is currently a lack of entrepreneurship programs tailored for ex-prisoners. However, a recent three-day program delivered by researchers from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University to incarcerated women provides a glimpse into the potential impact of such initiatives. Recognizing the need for targeted programs, a new pilot initiative in Glasgow, funded by the Scottish government, aims to empower 30 women over six weeks in 2024.
A New Pilot Program in Glasgow:
With funding of just under £100,000, the pilot program seeks to make entrepreneurship appealing to women leaving incarceration. Emphasizing that entrepreneurship courses can enhance employability and unveil untapped skills, the program will cover skill exploration, digital communication, and practical outcomes. To eliminate barriers, the program will provide support for travel, lunch, and childcare, fostering an inclusive environment. Social events at the program’s commencement and conclusion will encourage group bonding.
Future Prospects and Conclusion:
As the pilot program unfolds, its success may pave the way for broader implementation of entrepreneurship training for ex-prisoners in Scotland. The evidence from successful programs across the world indicates that empowering individuals with entrepreneurial skills can be a vital component of their rehabilitation journey. With hope, the day will arrive when comprehensive entrepreneurship programs are readily available across the UK, offering ex-prisoners a path to stability, self-sufficiency, and successful reintegration into society.