Defy Colorado Fights Recidivism with Business Skills

The nonprofit's in-prison program nurtures entrepreneurs

Defy Colorado, an independent nonprofit helping people with criminal histories create legal business ventures, is now in three Colorado prisons and is on track to graduate nearly 200 "Entrepreneurs-in-Training" by the end of 2019.

At its first Boulder Demo Day on Wednesday, two graduates of Defy Colorado’s flagship “Entrepreneurs-in-Training” in-prison program pitched business ideas ranging from an Etsy-like platform selling prison art to Spanish cuisine food trucks before a panel that included senior leaders from CSU’s Business School, Foundry Group, Google and Techstars. Defy Colorado also announced it had collected more than $70,000 in donations at the event.

More than 20,000 men and women are currently incarcerated across Colorado, with more than 9,000 individuals released each year. Due to a shortage of viable employment and housing opportunities, more than 50 percent of those individuals return to prison within three years of release. Defy Colorado seeks to break this cycle by offering a model that includes employment readiness, character development and entrepreneurship training inside prisons, as well as robust post-release services such as job placement and executive mentorship, Defy Colorado startup incubation and pitch competitions.

“Defy Colorado is powered by an army of volunteers, mentors, families and corporate partners who are helping us break the cycle of generational legacies of poverty and incarceration,” says Robert Omer, executive director of Defy Colorado. “More than 400 volunteers have joined us in prison for these programs so far, and with many more opportunities on the horizon, we are incredibly excited about what 2019 has in store.”

 

About Defy Colorado

Defy Colorado helps individuals with criminal histories create legal business ventures and careers to ultimately defy the odds to build successful, legitimate businesses outside of prison and integrate back into their communities. For more information, please visit www.defycolorado.org.

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