Rethinking Prison

Innovative program to employ ex-cons at new Texas auto repair franchise

Innovative program to employ ex-cons at Texas auto repair franchise

Since the Prison Entrepreneurship Program launched in Texas in 2004, it's been on a mission to transform the lives of inmates through education, entrepreneurial passion and mentorship.

The results of the program have been nothing short of amazing: a three-year return-to-prison rate at less than 5 percent, a 100 percent employment rate and more than 120 new businesses. 

But the Prison Entrepreneurship Program isn't stopping there. It recently purchased the franchise rights to Auto-Lab Complete Car Care Centers in Texas. The automotive repair business is already booming in Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and Florida, and PEP is bringing the brand to the Lone Star State. 

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program provides rigorous, college-level course work to harness the entrepreneurial spirit that is already present in many criminals. Jeremy Gregg, PEP's chief development officer, works out of the Dallas office and makes frequent trips to the Cleveland Correctional Center outside of Houston, where the program is based.

“Many people in jail are great entrepreneurs; they just had an illegal product,” Gregg explains. “We need to harness their skills for legal businesses.”

PEP's purchase of an automotive repair franchise will help to fund the nonprofit education program. To that end, Auto-Lab is now pat of Communitas Auto Group, PEP's for-profit subsidiary. Communitas has raised $800,000 so far and is in the process of securing an additional $350,000 for the company. 

Graduates of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program will be eligible to purchase franchises anywhere in Texas. Communitas Auto Group hopes to open its first two stores in the summer 2014.

Prison Entrepreneurship Program
Graduates of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program have a 100 percent employment rate. Photo courtesy of Prison Entrepreneurship Program
auto repair shop
Auto-Lab Complete Car Care Centers are coming to Texas thanks to the Prison Entrepreneurship Program and its for-profit subsidiary, Communitas Auto Group. MerchantCircle.com