The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) runs six-month entrepreneurship training programs at the Sanders Estes Unit in Venus, Texas, and at the Cleveland Correctional Center (CCC) in Cleveland, Texas.
The Estes Unit is in Venus, Texas, located approximately 40 miles southwest of Dallas, and 35 miles southeast of Fort Worth.
The address and phone number for Estes is:
1100 Hwy 1807
Venus, TX 76084
The Cleveland Unit is located approximately 45 miles northeast of Houston and 180 miles east of Austin.
The address and phone number for Cleveland is:
901 E. 5th Street
Cleveland, TX 77327
When you arrive at either unit, park anywhere in the parking lot, except in the reserved spaces. Lock your car with the windows rolled up – unlocked vehicles on TDCJ property will be towed. Come in the front door and a staff member will meet you, check you in, give you a name tag for the day, and take your driver’s license which will be held by the warden’s secretary until the end of the day when you leave the unit.
Do Not Bring
We will provide pens and notepads inside the unit, if needed.
We are all business at PEP and that includes our attire. Extreme hair styles/colors are not allowed by TDCJ, nor is jewelry worn on facial areas (nose, eyebrows or tongue). If you have questions please visit TDCJ’s website and review their Handbook for Volunteers (http://tdcj.state.tx.us/divisions/rpd/rpd_volunteer.html). Dress code as well as other matters are addressed there. The dress code is business professional. Please avoid wearing cologne or perfume.
Gentlemen: Wear a suit or a sport coat with slacks. A tie is optional. No open-toed shoes.
Ladies: Refrain from wearing dresses, skirts or cropped pants. TDCJ rules require that ladies dress modestly and conservatively. PEP recommends slacks and a jacket/sweater over a blouse that is not sheer or low cut (in the front or in the back). Both shoulders and the midriff area must be covered at all times. Sheer fabrics or tight fitting clothing such as slacks or pants are not allowed.
Executive Volunteers are allowed into prison at the discretion of the warden and his/her security staff; if a volunteer is not dressed appropriately they may not be allowed into the unit. If you have questions about your clothing please err on the side of moderation. Volunteers should feel free to call our Houston office at (832) 767-0928 or Dallas office at (214) 575-9909 with any questions/ concerns about your visit to prison
Encourage the participants
Use your business knowledge to improve the participants’ pitches and business plans
Abide by all prison rules
Both units are pre-release minimum/medium security facilities. Cleveland houses 520 men and Estes houses 1040 men. Inmates are typically within one to three years of release. In prison terms, this is very little time left, and inmates tend to be on their “best behavior.” PEP staff and volunteers have never encountered security problems with inmates, and we ask you to follow our rules to ensure program safety.
We expect all of the participants to be released within a year of joining our program – most to the Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston areas. Participants who meet qualifying criteria are selected after completing a 10-page application package, passing three exams, and interviewing with PEP staff members. Each participant accepted into the class has demonstrated his commitment to personal transformation.
Most of our participants are in their twenties and thirties, although they range in ages from 18 to 65. They have served an average of five to eight years in prison on this sentence. Our classes typically consist of approximately 30% African Americans, 30% Hispanics, and 40% Caucasians. Their criminal backgrounds and sentences vary broadly, although we do not have any people who have committed sexual offenses in our program.
TDCJ requires each guest to submit driver’s license information for security clearance purposes. Formerly incarcerated persons are still allowed into the unit, but we need to be aware of these circumstances.
DO NOT give any inmate your personal contact information, and do not distribute business cards. These are violations of TDCJ rules. It is PEP policy that our volunteers do not communicate via mail with our participants while they are incarcerated. Please do not give or take any contact information.
Please be aware that our participants are very impressionable and will look to you as a role model of success. We ask that you be a positive influence. Please refrain from using any curse words or from making inappropriate jokes
Most of you have probably never stepped foot in a prison and are not sure what to expect. Although many executives initially have reservations, as soon as they walk through the prison gates and actually “see what an inmate looks like,” most of their fears disappear. Although both units are “real prisons,” it is not like the movies. We see tremendous opportunity in these men, and do not view them as caged animals as much of our society does. Many of these men landed in prison precisely because they were entrepreneurs in the first place. They are intelligent, creative, passionate and driven individuals.
I also expect that you will find our participants to be extremely courteous and thoughtful. We have a few guys in our program who made the bad mistake of having an extra drink after a cocktail party and killed someone in a drunk-driving accident on their way home. Others grew up on the streets – without a chance, without hope, without fathers. They learned violence and drugs at an early age. They have paid dearly for their choices. The only reason why they were hand-selected to participate in PEP, and why they have persisted through this intensive program, is because they are choosing to live a different life and have new values.
Given that every man on this unit is very close to his release, the rate of “negative incidents” on this unit is exceptionally low, even among inmates. They do not want to do anything wrong to mess up their chances of going home. We expect that you will feel surprisingly comfortable at the unit. Of the executives who have participated in PEP in the past, almost all get “hooked” and can’t wait to come back. This is an opportunity for you to leverage your skills and expertise in a very meaningful and tangible way.