By Donna Westfall May 15, 2017 –
Things you didn’t know or probably forgot about Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP). Built for $277.5 million, it has an annual budget in excess of $190 million. PBSP is located on 275 acres on the North Coast of California, 13 miles from the Oregon/California Border. It was opened for business in 1989. What is it’s business? Keeping prisoners behind bars. Not just your run of the mill prisoners, rather it was built to accommodate a growing population of maximum security inmates.
Certainly when we hear that 3 out of 4 prisoners wind up behind bars within five years of release, the recidivism rate of re-arrest is unacceptably high. The idea that rehabilitation happens behind bars up until now was, for all intents and purposes, a pipe dream.
Then Catherine “Cat” Hoke, CEO of DEFY Ventures, a 501(c)3 non-profit, came onto the scene. She sees the problem and she sees the people. She takes action to make a change in the world. She connects people to each other and to opportunities. She starts off her seminars with a question; “What would it be like if you were only known for the worst thing that you have ever done?”
If you’re a convicted felon living in America, then America is not the land of opportunity and justice for all. We have not been a land of second chances. Her DEFY Ventures was created in 2010 to level the playing field.
Of 23 year old kids in America, 30% of them already have criminal histories. Worse, 70% of children with incarcerated parents follow in their parents footsteps.
What is the cost to the taxpayer? Its staggering at over $64 billion a year in America. This is one of our most costly social programs.
What does Cat’s DEFY program do to curtail recidivism?
They create entrepreneurs and amazing parents.
She discovered after graduating from Berkeley, first moving to Palo Alto to do technology investing for a venture capital firm, then moved to New York City to do private equity investing. At age 26, she was invited to a Texas prison, and instead of seeing them as animals, she saw them as people. She also realized that many of the gang leaders ran their illegal enterprises just like big business with their own board of directors, accountants and bookkeepers, sales management strategies, but Cat says, “What they all sucked at were their risk management strategies.”
The question she asked herself is, “What would happen if these guys were equipped to go legit?”
Her experience with over 600 inmates in the Texas prison resulted in 98% employment rate, and less than 5% recidivism.
PBSP started the DEFY program in January. It is holding it’s first graduation ceremony this June with approximately 44 inmates.