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MTC Correctional Facility Program Teaches Entrepreneurship

“A lot of these men don’t believe in themselves. So, what I started doing is I let them know, I believe in you.”

Sanders Estes PEP Part Still
David Flores teaching at the Sanders Estes Unit

So says David Flores, who manages the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, or PEP, in the Sanders Estes Unit in Venus, Texas.

“What this program does is very unique,” he affirms.

PEP is geared toward teaching the men who are accepted into the program the values of entrepreneurship and how to apply those values in their lives, in order to facilitate change. The rigorous training begins with a five-month boot camp where the men are immersed in the unique PEP culture. They develop business plans they must repeatedly pitch and are allowed to interact with volunteer business executives. The strictness of the PEP culture helps to motivate the men to stay on task….and stay out of trouble.

“What strikes me about that program, what I enjoy most about it, is the level of accountability,” explains Randy Treon, the former warden of Sanders Estes. “Everybody has to go through a leadership program. They have to kind of put the old things aside and kind of think in a different way, a more positive way. And if you don’t do that, you can be washed out of the program, not just by the people who run it, but by the other offenders, for not holding up your end of it.”

“But we really put the pressure,” agrees David. “We press these guys with accountability. And that right there is what makes the difference. When I talk with these guys, I set a standard for them, and we’re no nonsense. If they mess up, they don’t only have to deal with TDCJ. They deal with us. And sometimes to these guys, that means more.”

“You have to earn everything you get in PEP,” says Edward Williams, a participant in the PEP Program. “You will be held accountable. They will not stand for any slackers.”

Edward will be released from prison very soon. We will get to know him better in Part Two of this story. We’ll also take a closer look at David Flores, the manager of the program. David is a former resident of Sanders Estes himself. And a graduate of the PEP program.

“PEP really opened that door,” David says. “And that’s where I’m today; I have a family and good credit. I have my savings account and my emergency fund. I have my family; I’m a leader in the church, and a youth pastor. So, yeah, I’m in a whole – everything has changed for me, my world, my environment, my mentality. How I look, how I dress, everything.”

“PEP?” Adds Edward. “I have nothing but good things to say about it. Didn’t nobody pay me to say that, either. You don’t get no money here, they don’t give you nothing here, you got to earn everything you get from PEP. It’s not a handout. It’s a hand up.”

Sanders Estes PEP Part Still
Edward Williams, Sanders Estes Unit