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Program helps Washington women with life after prison

A Washington program is taking a new approach to helping women in prison lead productive and successful lives after they get out. The “Ready for Release” program is an eight-week course that teaches women close to being released numerous entrepreneurial skills they can later apply to starting a business.

“We just graduated our second cohort of entrepreneurs of women coming out of prison and they’ll be having access to all of our wraparound services upon release to start and grow micro businesses in our communities,” program director Jen Hughes told the Candy, Mike and Todd Show.

“Each week they’re building their skills in marketing, sales, financial statements, business operations, and the ability to actually pitch a solid business idea and make a powerful ask.”

Currently offered at Mission Creek Correction Center for Women, the multi-week program ends with a graduation in which the inmates pitch a business ideas in front of the class. It’s offered by Ventures, a Seattle-based non-profit that provides training and coaching to those who might otherwise be out of reach.

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The idea is to give inmates an alternative method to finding work stability upon release, as well as to supplement job training approaches already being offered.

“The unfortunate part is upon release the job access can be very challenging for somebody who is incarcerated and so having another pathway to success and financial stability is really important for us,” she said. “There’s a lot of support in the reentry programs actually here in Washington state and so we’re very lucky to be another pillar of support.”

“These women who are incarcerated have very transferable skills. They may have owned a business in the past. They may have very relevant skills that they can turn into a business upon release.”

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Since the program’s inception, released inmates have started a range of businesses, including professional photography, painting, carpentry, car detailing, as well a numerous cosmetology-related businesses like salons. What inmates seem to appreciate most about the program is that it helps them believe they might be able to anything despite their prison background.

“In prison there is a tendency where your dreams are shut down and that is where we come in and reignite the possibility to have dreams,” Hughes said. “That’s actually what our last cohort of graduates said, that this program makes it possible to dream again, which in an environment of prison is really not supported.”

Listen to The Candy, Mike, and Todd Show weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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