Most employers do not wish to employ people with a criminal record, which is obviously a major obstacle to the financial autonomy of former prisoners. This is the main reason why recidivism rates are high across Europe, which is not only a waste of human talent, but also a heavy burden on society in terms of incarceration costs.
Prison entrepreneurship programs offer a possible solution. In the United States, the country with the highest detention rate in the world, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program has been gaining increasing attention in recent years and has helped reducing recidivism rates.
Europe’s entrepreneurship programs compared to those of the United States are far less developed, but recent years have shown that Europe has the potential to develop prison entrepreneurship programs. Awareness of the benefits of such projects seems to be increasing (think tanks working on the issue, several in-prison entrepreneurship programs emerging and expanding in the UK and Germany, etc.). The main pillars are being built, and the time is right. Particularly in the UK, one can see that there is a growing awareness of entrepreneurship as a solution, especially to tackle high recidivism rates. In addition, the UK provides inmates and former inmates with various entrepreneurship programs. Moreover, several European initiatives draw attention to the problem of recidivism and propose entrepreneurship education in prison and after the inmate’s release. Although there is still potential to offer more intensive courses that assist prisoners before, during and after their business creation, the foundations seem to be laid. To get a better understanding of the obstacles and opportunities in Europe, the EPEP partners produced a report of the state of the art of prison entrepreneurship programs in Europe, focusing on France, Italy and Belgium.