Entrepreneurship in Prison? Yes, And it’s Working at the Cleveland Correctional Center

“The most valuable thing, I think, is being able to take a look at myself. The second most valuable thing is learning how to handle other people.”

John Gibson is a resident at the Cleveland Correctional Center in Cleveland, TX which was profiled, in part Part I of this story, as being committed to providing opportunity for residents to change.

Michael Upshaw is the warden of the facility. “The fact of the matter is every offender that we have at this facility will be going home,” he says. “It’s our responsibility to try to do everything we can to ensure that that man is a good neighbor when he gets back out into society.”

One of the many programs offered at the facility is the PEP or the Prison Entrepreneurship Program where men are taught sound business practices and development in the context of building successful lives.

“I think when I got here, I didn’t have a lot of hope for the future,” explains John, “because this is my second time down. So, like a lot of guys, I was hopeless. But now, every day, I’m involved in something meaningful.”

Louis Monroe is another resident taking PEP. “When I came to this program, there were individuals in place that were leading the right way. And it was somebody I wanted to follow. So, PEP had the Ten Driving Values that they stand by that I was able to instill in me in order to be the authentic man.”

“Right now, I’m making a five-year plan,” says John, “developing my own personal purpose with the intention of extending that to a ten-year plan. One of the coolest things about being here is that I’ve learned the ability to put my goals, my vision down on paper and watch all of those things come to life. And, I mean, that’s a real thing. We practice the small things here, and it gives us the confidence to pursue the bigger things when we get out in the world.”

Louis agrees. “So, PEP has helped me come a long way, and I am not the same person that I was when I first got locked up.”

About Oliver J. Bell Unit

Oliver J. Bell Unit is accredited by the American Correctional Association—
achieving 100% compliance for both mandatory and non-mandatory standards in
its most recent audit. Other accreditations and certifications include the Correctional
Education Association, National Center for Construction Education and Research
(NCCER), and the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).