CENTRAL COAST, Calif. (KION) Walking out of prison doesn't mean your criminal record is wiped clean, and rejoining society can prove difficult for anyone who has served time.
A life-changing program is being taught to inmates in hopes of giving them a second chance. Inmates to Entrepreneurs is helping those looking to leave the life of crime behind them, by giving them an opportunity to become their own boss.
"There is a lot to say, someone who has his own business can really change his life,” Bernard Gomez, Program Leadership Assistant at MILPA (Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement).
Bernie Gomez is not too far removed from prison, getting off parole about a year and a half ago.
"The real challenge is not because I have been imprisoned, but it is actually living in the United States with the record, especially here in California,” said Gomez.
Gomez followed a different path to better his future, but programs such as Inmates to Entrepreneurs is giving those with a record, a chance to learn skills to start their own business.
“It's very practical, how to get an employment identification number, or how to file your taxes, how to hire an accountant, how to put together your marketing campaign, how to get your first sale, how to like work around getting capital, you know, trying to bootstrap your business in very, very practical
ways,” Brian Hamilton, Inmates to Entrepreneurs Founder.
This step by step program does this two different ways. One is an eight hour self taught course. The second is to join an online program, where training happens remotely with mentors and entrepreneurs themselves. Both remote classes are free of charge, both aiming to give former felons a sense of freedom.
“It's a really important American thing that we do. American value to give people the second chance, and give them some freedom. And the best way to do that is through being an entrepreneur.” Hamilton continues, “You get to control your destiny, you get to build some wealth, you get some freedom, and your schedule.”
According to the foundation, formerly incarcerated individuals are half as likely to get a job because of their incarceration and face unemployment rates five times the national average. The program is not just offered to those who have spent time in jail, but who may have a past record, like a DUI.
"Getting that second chance or just having someone believe in us,” said Gomez
For every ten people who start the program, about seven will complete it, and of those seven about half will start businesses. For more information you can visit, inmatestoentrepreneurs.org.