The Stringer Bell School of Management

How Ivy League MBA students are turning kingpins into entrepreneurs

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Risk assessment? Personnel management? Distribution logistics? Those skills are as key to a successful drug corner as they are to a corner office. That’s the theory behind the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a recently launched nonprofit that teaches would-be Stringer Bells to apply their talents in the legit marketplace.

Based (appropriately) in a privately run prison in Cleveland, Texas, the program has put 370 inmates through a four-month crash course in which volunteer execs and Ivy League MBA students help them craft business plans. The vetting is intense: Prisoners must be within a year of release, renounce gang affiliations, complete a long questionnaire, memorize financial jargon, and submit to multiple tests and interviews. Only about one in five is accepted, and many get kicked out along the way for infractions from cheating to maintaining gang ties.

The selectivity seems to pay off—since PEP launched in 2004, virtually all of its graduates have found jobs, says spokeswoman Kami Recla, and more than 40 have launched businesses ranging from landscaping to leatherwork. More important, fewer than 5 percent are back behind bars so far, impressive in a state with a recidivism rate hovering around 30 percent. It remains to be seen, however, whether this success story is recession-proof.

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

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Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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