Turning Street Hustle into Profits, Second Chances

The Clarion-Ledger

By Jerry Mitchell

What if those inside prison could take the hustle they learned on the streets and transform it into hustle for entrepreneurship?

That’s the idea behind Defy Ventures, which trains current and former inmates, aiming to give them the tools they need to rebuild their lives and start businesses.

Officials from the nonprofit say they have created hundreds of job opportunities for those who graduate, most of them so far in New York City where they are headquartered.

“It would be nice for Mississippi to be a pioneer in this,” said Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher. “We’ve got to try something different.”

It’s one of several initiatives he is eyeing to help reduce the revolving door of inmates through Mississippi’s correctional system.

California and Nebraska are both using Defy Ventures to train inmates inside prisons. While the work in Nebraska is privately funded, the nonprofit receives $214,320 to provide training for inmates inside three California prisons.

Mississippi correctional officials have no estimates yet on the cost if they decide to hire Defy Ventures.

In the nonprofit’s “CEO of Your New Life” program, those enrolled learn “how to look somebody in eye, how to dress for an interview, how to eat, what side the fork should be on and how to make a meaningful apology,” Fisher said.

These “entrepreneurs in training” also learn about business operations, market research and customer demands.

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