Washington, D.C.— Today, House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), and Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) introduced a set of bills to increase access to entrepreneurial training for the currently and formerly incarcerated.
In 2020, more than 41,000 incarcerated individuals were released from federal prisons. When transitioning from prison into a community, the formerly incarcerated face substantial obstacles to re-entering the workforce and a high risk of recidivism. Studies have shown that an estimated 60 percent of returning citizens remain unemployed a year after their release. The bills seek to increase job opportunities for returning citizens by directing Small Business Administration (SBA) resource partners to extend entrepreneurial development training to federal prisons and formerly incarcerated individuals.
The Prison to Proprietorship Act, introduced by Chairwoman Velázquez and Rep. Chabot, would direct Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) and Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) to offer entrepreneurship training services to incarcerated individuals in federal prisons. These training offerings would provide one-on-one mentoring opportunities and in-depth classroom instruction on topics like accessing capital and identifying business opportunities. In addition, the bill would prioritize individuals eligible for release within 18 months.
“Research has shown that the strongest predictor for recidivism is poverty. The stigma of incarceration often deprives returning citizens the ability to earn a living, which can push them back into the prison system,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “By investing in entrepreneurial training, we can empower the formerly incarcerated to be their own boss and overcome the discrimination they face in the job market. Returning citizens have paid their debt to society and deserve a real second chance; this bill will help provide that.”
“All too often, incarcerated individuals find it difficult to re-enter society after serving time in prison,” said Rep. Chabot. “Providing them with entrepreneurial programs and vocational training opportunities helps inmates develop valuable skills and better prepares them to succeed in today’s economic environment.”
The Prison to Proprietorship for Formerly Incarcerated Act, introduced by Rep. Jeffries and Rep. Burchett and cosponsored by Chairwoman Velázquez, would launch a program where Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) participants would 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 grow a small business.
“America faces a mass incarceration epidemic, and we have worked together in a bipartisan fashion to pass groundbreaking criminal justice reforms like the First Step Act. Today we carry that legacy forward with the reintroduction of the Prison to Proprietorship for Formerly Incarcerated Act,” said Rep. Jeffries. “This bill 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. I am proud to have worked with Rep. Burchett and Chairwoman Velázquez to reintroduce this important legislation.”
“Non-violent offenders deserve a second chance to succeed once they’ve paid their debt to society. Teaching formerly incarcerated folks important entrepreneurial skills opens doors to new opportunities that can help them successfully rejoin their communities in a productive way,” said Rep. Burchett. “I'm thankful for Congressman Jeffries’ continued partnership on this issue.”