COLORADO SPRINGS – Transitioning from prison life back into society can be difficult for those who’ve lived behind bars for years.
A new program, Fresh Start Investment, set to kick off in Colorado Springs next year hopes to make this change a bit easier. The program will train and support individuals while they’re in prison and once they are out. The end goal is to help them open their own business. It’s a move that organizers believe is huge in making sure these people don’t return to a life of crime.
Pastor Ben Anderson, executive director of Solid Rock Community Development Corporation, said, “How do we help individuals to reduce crime and recidivism in our communities?”
It’s a question for the ages and while Pastor Anderson doesn’t have an everlasting solution his new program could be just the ticket.
“We go inside Department of Corrections. We teach individuals how to start a business.”
With the help of the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center classes will take place inside several Colorado prisons, available for anyone interested.
“Once they transition out we continue that education process, assist them with marketing strategies, inventory strategies.”
Individuals will also be mentored and learn social skills provided by Weighout Ministries.
Chauncey LaBrie, executive director of Weighout Ministries, said, “We will teach them how to maneuver the route of the community, the route of life, and to be able to adapt in certain environments, how to conduct themselves in interviews.”
Eventually, a vetting process will happen.
Anderson said, “It will be based upon the idea of the business and whether that business can be successful long-term or not.”
Once classes wrap up a few lucky individuals will get small business loans to open up shop in southeast Colorado Springs.
Anderson said, “Southeast Colorado Springs, according to the surveys, has the highest incidents of crime…it’s imperative that we improve our communities and that we help individuals get a fresh start.”
This program is part of Transforming Safety which is a project started by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. It diverted state funding from the Department of Corrections towards small business loans and grant programs in Aurora and southeast Colorado Springs.