Prison encourages convicts to cultivate entrepreneurship

Global Business


The global prison population topped 10.3 million in 2015, according to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research. But ex-prisoners are looking at alternatives to life on the outside.

CCTV America’s Rachelle Akuffo reports.

An entrepreneur, a baker, and a nine-time convicted robber. It was in prison that Gilbert Ayrala found an alternative to his life of crime. Gilbert opened his own bakery inside the facility that gave him his first taste of legal entrepreneurship.

“Well, I spent 18 years in jail. I started stealing cars. Then I started to go up on the criminal scale. I ended up robbing the Bank of Uruguay. I was the leader of a gang. And that’s what’s a bit contradictory. The thief becomes an entrepreneur. The only opportunities I saw were here,” Gilbert said.

With high walls and barbed wire, Uruguay’s Punta de Rieles prison looks like any other penitentiary. Inside, it’s a different story.

Inmates here are encouraged to explore their creative side through music, working and setting up their own companies.

The prison features inmate-run businesses, including a pizzeria, ice cream parlor, a brick factory and a greenhouse for vegetables-all producing items that can be sold to fellow inmates and local traders.

Their earnings can be deposited in personal prison accounts, reinvested into more businesses or pay for vouchers to buy products made by other inmates’ companies.

Prison director Luis Parodi said his prison is transforming because it mimics the life outside these walls.

Starting a business can be tough enough. Behind bars, it can be tougher.

This program has been hailed as a blueprint for helping offenders transition from prison life to life back on the streets. They leave knowing how to make money without having to steal it.

Frederick Hutson discusses his life after prison

For more on life after prison, CCTV America’s Rachelle Akuffo interviewed Frederick Hutson, the CEO of Pigeonly, a technology company that builds solutions driven products for those who need it most, underserved communities.  Twitter: @IAMFastFreddy and @pigeon_ly