At PEP, innovation is critical to empowering our clients. It is key to the program’s results. The very structure of our program, the education, the mentoring and the continued post-release support are innovative.

Our culture promotes innovation. PEP does things that no other organization can match and our results are second to none. From our detailed candidate selection process to our in-prison leadership academy and mini-MBA boot camp to the real and very competitive business plan competition to the post-release support structure, every part of our program is carefully designed to provide our men the skills to be successful upon release from prison.

The drive to empower innovation carries over to our clients. Most clients are accomplishing objectives that they never thought possible. They see a future with transformation, hope restored and families rebuilt. We encourage our men to think differently and embrace their inherent creativity and ability to innovate.

Many organizations recognize PEP for the quality of our results and the ROI the program consistently delivers. We are pleased that PEP ranked as a finalist for the prestigious Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation.

But we never rest on our laurels. We continuously examine and measure what is making the most impact and refine the program to strengthen it.

Selection Process

PEP has a rigorous criteria and selection process designed to identify the top 500 men each year from more than 10,000 candidates. With a 5% acceptance rate, our program’s selectivity rivals that of the top-ranked colleges and universities in the United States.

The selection process begins when the Texas Department of Criminal Justice provides PEP with a list of inmates who are eligible to apply to our program.

Next, we send postcards to approximately 10,000 candidates inviting them to request an application to our program. Typically, our mailer generates a response from 3,000+/- candidates.

After receiving the request for program information, PEP then sends this group of respondents a 20-page application that includes essay questions. On average, nearly 2,000 candidates will complete the applications and return them to PEP.

With the completed applications in hand, our staff then carefully reviews the applications and selects the top 1,500 candidates. This group then receives a study packet that includes the AP Writing Style Guide, PEP’s Ten Driving Values, and a Basic Business Vocabulary reference.

Two weeks after sending candidates the study packet, a PEP recruiter will visit the prison and administer a 50-question test. Each person that scores above 70% on the test moves on to in-person interviews. The purpose of the interview is to determine which candidates have the work ethic and the commitment to succeed in our program. At this point, PEP has identified the top 450 to 500 men for the program.

Next, the remaining candidates are transferred to the Cleveland Unit near Houston, TX or the Estes Unit near Dallas, TX. Once the candidates are transferred, they have a final round of interviews with our in-prison program manager and our recently released graduates.

In-Prison Education/Leadership Academy

PEP’s mission begins inside the prison system with a rigorous application and screening process of eligible male inmates.

Selected participants are transferred by the State to one of the two facilities where PEP operates: the Estes Unit south of Dallas, Texas or the Cleveland Correctional Facility outside of Houston, Texas. Once transferred, participants begin the program and their journey with a 3-month, in-prison character development program, known as The Leadership Academy. The Leadership Academy utilizes The Principles of Effective Leadership and Men’s Life (also known as Men’s Fraternity: The Quest for Authentic Manhood).

All participants are expected to “live out” PEP’s Ten Driving Values: Integrity, Accountability, Wise Stewardship, Love, Fun, Fresh Start Outlook, Servant-Leader Mentality, Innovation, Execution, and Excellence. We work with each client to identify and remove the character traits and behaviors that stand in the way of a positive life transformation.

The program is also designed to assimilate each participant into PEP’s diverse community of accountability and encouragement, one that begins in prison and continues following their release.

Business Plan Competition

The Leadership Academy is immediately followed by a 6-month in-prison “mini-MBA” program. The “mini-MBA” is the core of our in-prison business education, taught by PEP staff, board members, and business executives lecturing on topics within their areas of expertise.

We use a college textbook Entrepreneurship: A Small Business Approach that is supplemented with Harvard and Stanford Business School case studies. The centerpiece of this phase is the Business Plan Competition (BPC), modeled after BPCs held at major universities across the nation.

Each student is required to conceive a business that he would start upon release. The student will research the logistics of competing within his chosen industry, write a complete business plan for launching his business and then pitch his plan over 120 times in a “Shark Tank” like format (including groups of PEP business executive volunteers).

Last but not least, during this in-prison program, all participants must complete a financial literacy course, an employment workshop, a business etiquette course, and a Toastmasters class.

As you can see, much is given to help our men transform, but much is expected from them in return.

Formal Graduation

After completing the immersive and intense in-prison program, participants will graduate in a cap-and-gown ceremony held within the prison.

PEP strongly encourages family and friends of each graduate to attend the graduation ceremony directly following BPC. For many, this event is often the first time families have seen their fathers, husbands, sons or brothers truly follow-through, succeed and accomplish their goals.

In cases where hardship would prevent family members from attending graduation, PEP provides financial assistance to defray some of the costs of traveling to the graduation.


In recognition of the rigors of our program, the Baylor University Hankamer School of Business provides every PEP graduate with a Certificate in Entrepreneurship. This certificate is a genuine college certificate that does not have the word “prison” anywhere on it, making it highly valuable to potential employers as well as future investors in these graduates’ businesses.

Graduates can also earn certificates for completion of our in-prison financial literacy program, our Toastmasters course, and the Men’s Life program.

Family Program

Starting in prison, PEP Family Liaisons interview each participant and have them complete a survey regarding their relationships with their loved ones. After a participant has completed the interview and survey, the Family Liaisons begin an outreach campaign to open lines of communication and strengthen the ties between each family and their participant.

PEP conducts open conference calls led by our Family Liaisons and re-entry staff for families to learn more about our program. Family members are provided with information about PEP, updates on the class’s progress, tips on how to manage their loved one’s release, information regarding the reintegration process, resources for forgiveness and acceptance, and any questions the families might have are answered.