ORK, Neb. —
Incarcerated women are taking control to become a ‘CEO of their life’ through the program Defy Ventures helping them towards an entrepreneurial journey.
“A lot of times inmates are told that they have to change. You have to heal first and need the tools in order to make that change and Defy provided us those tools,”said Carla Walker, a graduate of the program.
Seventeen incarcerated women at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women graduated after a seven-month long program with a certificate in career-readiness.
One woman graduating the program said there were so many times she wanted to quit because it got difficult.
“I think sometimes you get overwhelmed when you’re healing and dealing with things that you’ve pushed back and under for so many years it gets a little difficult. But it was worth it. Absolutely worth it,” said Walker.
The program focuses on helping the women become entrepreneurs and job ready when they assimilate back into society.
“It’s really having a pre-release and post release impact. I see us helping lower recidivism through employment, job creation and network support. I also see us having employment rate with criminal history’s going up and businesses being created with felony backgrounds,” said Jeremy Bouman, the executive director of Defy Ventures Nebraska.
Defy volunteers even helping the women gain confidence and support for one and another.
“It just brings such great commitment and hope for the women. It brings that character development which is a big part of the program. What it does is it gives them the strength and the hope to help bleed out to the rest of the population and share that with the other women and give them that confidence. They see them excel in areas like this so it gives them the hope that they can do the same thing with such a program,” said Denise Davidson, the warden of the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women.
Defy says the recidivism rate after program completion is less than five percent.
“You can put us back out there damaged and not healed from our traumas or you can give us an opportunity to be the wonderful people that we are because we are people and that gets forgotten with the word inmate or offender,” said Walker.
The program also holds a ‘Shark Tank’ style business competition that provides the participants with I.O.U funding upon release for their business.
Defy Ventures will also be starting up in the Lincoln Correctional Center in November putting the program in five prisons in the state.