Washington, D.C.— On Monday, at a press event at New York City Hall, House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) announced a set of bills to fight mass incarceration by launching entrepreneurial training initiatives for the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated. Studies show that returning citizens are often met with few job prospects and a high risk for recidivism. The bills, H.R. 5078 and H.R. 5065, would help combat mass incarceration and recidivism by directing Small Business Administration (SBA) resource partners to extend entrepreneurial development training initiatives to federal prisons and formerly incarcerated individuals.
H.R. 5078, the Prison to Proprietorship Act introduced by Chairwoman Velázquez and Ranking Member Steve Chabot (R-OH), would direct Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) and Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) to offer entrepreneurship training services to incarcerated individuals in federal prisons. The program would provide training on topics like starting and expanding a small business, creating a business plan, and identifying sources of capital. The program would prioritize those set to leave prison within 18 months.
“The stigma of incarceration can make basic needs like employment inaccessible for those that have already paid their debt to society,” said Chairwoman Velazquez. “For returning citizens, entrepreneurship is a proven tool that can unlock economic opportunities and provide a path toward a healthy and productive life. By providing these individuals with the knowledge and training needed to run a small business, this bill will help to ensure that returning citizens have a place in our economy and a genuine second chance.”
"Many challenges await those who reenter society after serving time in prison. All too often, these individuals face higher rates of unemployment than any other segment of the population. Providing an outlet for their entrepreneurial spirit not only helps them reacclimate to society, but also boosts our economy and local communities. Entrepreneurial development programs and vocational training opportunities have been shown to provide inmates valuable skills and experience," said Ranking Member Chabot. "These bills ensure that current and formerly incarcerated individuals have access to programs that develop their entrepreneurial spirit."
H.R. 5065, the Prison to Proprietorship for Formerly Incarcerated Act introduced by Rep. Jeffries and Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), would launch a program where SCORE participants provide entrepreneurial development training to the formerly incarcerated. Under the bill, SCORE would provide returning citizens with workshops, mentoring, and training opportunities designed to help them start and run a business.
“In the last Congress, we took an important first step toward dealing with the mass incarceration epidemic by passing historic criminal justice reform,” said Rep. Jeffries. “This legislation that Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez is championing before her committee picks up where the First Step Act left off. It is designed to make sure that formerly incarcerated individuals can use their God-given skills, talent and ability to bring business and entrepreneurial activities to life in their communities. She should be commended for her leadership on such a critical effort.”
“Previously incarcerated individuals deserve a second chance at success after paying their debt to society,” said Rep. Burchett. “This includes giving them a shot at entrepreneurship and small business ownership. This bill ensures individuals re-entering society have access to resources that will help them succeed, and I am proud to work with Representative Jeffries on this initiative.”
Today, the Committee will hold a markup of both pieces of legislation. The markup can be livestreamed here.