Mercy Corp Launched Lifelong Education for Entrepreneurs

From Mercy Corp Northwest

Mercy Corp Launched Lifelong Education for Entrepreneurs

In 2007, MCNW launched Lifelong Education for Entrepreneurs (LIFE) at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF) in Wilsonville, OR.  Mercy Corp Launched Lifelong Education for Entrepreneurs

The LIFE prison reentry program reduces recidivism up to 50%; building resiliency and establishing self-sufficiency and economic stability for incarcerated individuals and their families.

A Volunteer’s Chance to Make a Difference Behind Bars

LIFE Inside, Entrepreneurship Training for Incarcerated People

This 32 weeks of accredited training empowers participants to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and leverages the potential of self-employment promote resilience, and economic stability. Currently serving women at Oregon’s only women’s prison, Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, with hopes of expansion to a men’s facility, the LIFE Inside class provides business planning and training that promotes:

  • Job creation and economic self-sufficiency
  • Reduces reliance on social welfare programs
  • Prevents further criminal activity
  • Most of all, it betters the lives of these individuals, their families and communities.

When women graduate from this program, they are equipped with an amended business plan, transition plan, certificate of achievement, two versions of their resume and three credits attributed to their college transcripts.

“This program encouraged me to reach my potential. The experience was of self discovery, accountability, and self discipline. I learned to set goals, use resources and hold myself to a standard that provided me with a sense of worth and accomplishment.”

– LIFE Graduate, June 2018

The classes are delivered by MCNW staff with help from community experts and volunteers. Students are taught small business development topics such as profit and loss projections, legal organization, break-even analysis and marketing as well life skills such as effective communication, conflict management, goal planning and time management.

“This program presents the inner workings of how to make a business plan. It’s a step-by-step guide that is comprehensive, objective and related specifically to each individual. I gratefully say that it  has changed and organized my life- the transition plan is a complete game changer. I have a concrete plan of how, when and where I’ll reach my goals and pave the way to start my business plan. I even know how to talk to an employer about the gap in my work history and my criminal record. This LIFE Program wins!”

– LIFE Graduate, June 2018

LIFE Outside, Support for a Successful Reentry Back into Society

In the very beginning of its life cycle, the LIFE Outside project hopes to pilot a social enterprise that creates change in our community generates sustaining revenue to the LIFE Program. We hope to create an innovative, groundbreaking, response to the needs of individuals who have been recently released from prison. This initiative is both a response to the loss of the Mercy Corps Northwest Reentry Transition Center and to the growing prison population in Oregon. The RTC served many who were recently released from prison via a peer led and supportive model. Our hope is to continue to offer services to recently released individuals. It is important to our team that our response to this growing crisis is innovative and creates lasting change in the lives of the people we serve, therefore creating change in the local community, families, and the region at large. The dream is this: a social enterprise that employs LIFE Inside graduates, offers supportive management, incentivises education, and is a launching pad to the greater employment market.

The LIFE program also incorporates bridging services to allow participants to meet 1:1 with a qualified professional both pre and post release. During these meetings staff and participants work together to create a realistic and practical transition plan.

  • Pre-Release – Identifies gaps and gives individualized feedback on the student’s transition plan, offers county-specific resource information and provides assistance in navigating and accessing primary medical care, mental health, and addictions treatment, and delivers practical support related to problem-solving, stress-management, action planning, and communication skills.
  • Post-release – Gives in-person or phone-based counseling and emotional support, as well as referrals to medical/mental health care, housing, A&D support, and other re-entry services.

Along with coursework and mentoring support of the LIFE Inside class, MCNW offers an innovative matched savings program that encourages both the fiscal discipline of saving toward a goal, and the development of resources for successful reentry. Students must demonstrate consistent attendance, complete homework, create and execute a savings plan based on their current earnings and needs, and complete both a transition plan and a business plan. Once they have filled these requirements, the students are eligible for a $500 grant for transition needs upon release.

“The LIFE Program gives us hope for a better life. Not only hope, but the tools and confidence to follow through with our dreams and goals. This program changes lives. It will break the cycle of incarceration and addiction for those of us that take it seriously. This program is helping me have a second chance at life.”

– LIFE Graduate, June 2018

LIFE has been recognized on a national level for its one-of-kind approach to weave together entrepreneurial, life skills, and reentry planning as a solution for reducing recidivism and ending mass incarceration. Specifically, in 2017, the LIFE program was highlighted in policy paper published by The Aspen Institute, an internationally recognized educational and policy studies organization, entitled Prison to Proprietorship.