Blog: Creating self-employment opportunities for people leaving prison

Published: 5 Aug 2020

Author: David Morgan
Blog: Creating self-employment opportunities for people leaving prison

For people with a criminal conviction, finding employment can be a significant challenge. One solution is preparing them to start their own business after leaving prison.

"By engaging in these programmes and projects offered by Entrepreneurs Unlocked CIC, the participants can find ways to earn a legitimate income after release, lead a crime-free life and avoid returning to custody." - David Morgan, Fellow

Enabling people to learn, develop and grow to be a better individual is something that I have always had a passion for. This has become more of a focus for me over the last 12 years as I worked in the further and adult education sector, developing and delivering a range of qualifications from entry level through to undergraduate. I worked for colleges, universities, corporates and for the last nine years in prison education, with a subject specialism of business, leadership and management, as well as enterprise and entrepreneurship.

What I observed and learned from engaging with men and women in custody was their desire to access support that would enable them to find a way of earning an income once released. Being self-employed and running their own micro-business is a way to use their entrepreneurial talent to underpin their rehabilitation and avoid returning to custody.

Some 47% of adults who are released from prison go on to re-offend. This means that around 30,000 adults per annum return to custody. According to a Ministry of Justice report in 2020, the economic and social cost of re-offending is in excess of £18 billion per annum.,

These numbers highlight the scale of the problem and the impact on the individual, their families and society. I felt I needed to learn how to enhance my professional practice, and researched programmes in the USA that have re-offending rates of less than 10%. I was humbled to be awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2018, enabling me to experience these programmes first-hand in America and bring that knowledge back to the UK.

This experience inspired me to set up Entrepreneurs Unlocked CIC in late 2019 with the aim of reducing re-offending through entrepreneurship. I work with men and women who are currently in custody or have recently been released, to recognise and develop their entrepreneurial talent. I provide a range of workshops and support, so that participants can explore their talent and consider self-employment in the form of running their own micro-business or becoming a subcontractor in the construction industry.

The ambition of Entrepreneurs Unlocked CIC is to be able to engage with over 300 men and women over the next 12 months. With the current restrictions in prisons due to Covid-19, some of these will now be via in-cell distance learning packs which provide a correspondence course experience, enabling knowledge to be provided over a period of time rather than face to face delivery.

I have other projects in the pipeline that will provide community-based real-life knowledge of working in a micro-business, to enhance the learning experience without the risks associated with starting up from scratch such as funding a start-up and having to earn enough to live on.

By engaging in these programmes and projects offered by Entrepreneurs Unlocked CIC, the participants can find ways to earn a legitimate income after release, lead a crime-free life and avoid returning to custody. This will also reduce the pressure on public spending for the future.

My Fellowship has greatly influenced how my organisation seeks to work with the men and women who have been in custody. It enabled me to look more holistically at the self-employment pathway, not just practically but also from a more personal and human perspective. The programmes in the USA that I observed devoted a significant amount of time to supporting personal transformation and provide a robust platform on which to launch a business in the future.

When I was awarded my Fellowship, I recall being told that the trip you make is just the start of a potential lifelong relationship with the Trust and that it can be a transformational life experience. I can say with my hand on my heart that this has been true for me.

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