Being able to say “Oh, I spent last weekend in prison” isn’t something most people say. In my case, I get to say it three times, and I love sharing the story of why.
Currently, myself and three classmates from the University of North Texas are working on a project with Pegasus news founder Mike Orren on his new entrepre-venture (entrepreneur venture…or something) of a book-umentary. (Check out all these made up words, right?) Mike was drawn to the program because of its quantifiable results in reducing recidivism and finding work for released prisoners in Texas. But what stuck with him were the remarkable stories of these men, many of them multiple-time felons, and how the program pushed them over the top in their efforts to build a new life.
This doesn’t even begin to justify how excited I am for this project.
After writing an article for Pegasus about the Prison Entrepreneurship Project, Mike decided there was a deeper story with this program.
The program, established in 2004, is a Houston-based nonprofit organization and self-proclaimed pioneers of innovative programs that connect the nation’s top executives, MBA students and politicians with convicted felons. The entrepreneurship boot camp and re-entry programs are proven solutions for reformed inmates who thrive on challenge and accountability.
From Mike’s blog:
[bra_blockquote align="left"]The response to that story, as well as a series of talks I gave afterwards, made me realize that there was interest in a deeper exploration of the program and the struggles, stumbles and triumphs of these men. I and the organization heard from interested volunteers, news organizations and even a major reality TV producer. [/bra_blockquote][bra_blockquote align="right"]I’ve decided that the best way to approach this was to follow one class from recruitment through graduation while simultaneously following the recently-released graduates working in PEP transitional homes and co-working facilities. I hope to explore and better understand what divides the graduates from those who fall by the wayside, as well as how this changes the lives of the families involved.[/bra_blockquote]
There are three components to this project:
Book: Written by Mike Orren, scheduled for release in late 2012 to be published by a publisher, and if this is unable to happen, will be self-published both as a printed book and an e-book.
Documentary: This is where I come in – myself and the three other students are filming a documentary and snapping some stills during out three trips down to the Cleveland Correctional Facility in south Texas, in addition to creating packages about the outside-life and transitional houses and graduates of the people involved.
And the addition of a digital community to be found at pepbook.org, where you can find all of this information and more.
Now, I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, and to leave you in suspense for the bookumentary. So I leave you with this: after the first of three opportunities we have to shoot inside the facility and the first visit to the safe house, we are realizing the potential of the content we are creating. I put together a trailer for the project that was showcased this past weekend at SXSW and to the Mayborn School of Journalism faculty. Here it is.
Disclaimer: Yes, this says 2012. YouTube pulled the wrong video and it took too long to upload in the first place, so this is it, and the date will be changed in trailer numero dos. Whoops! January 2013, for the record.)