Established in 1998, the Federal Correctional Institution Edgefield (FCI Edgefield) is a medium security United States federal prison housing approximately 1,400 male inmates in South Carolina. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. The facility also has an adjacent satellite prison camp for minimum-security male offenders which houses between 500 and 549 inmates. FCI Edgefield offers a variety of vocational and continuing education programs for inmates.
Officials at FCI Edgefield contacted Greater Aiken SCORE requesting the chapter provide training in business fundamentals for those inmates soon to be released. The chapter’s instructors chose to adapt SCORE’s “Simple Steps for Starting Your Business” as the best program to meet the needs of the institution and attendees. The program was expanded from 5 to 7 sessions with one session every two weeks. The last session of the series included a presentation by the inmates similar to the “Shark Tank TV series”. Those successfully completing a business plan received certificates. 76% of those who signed up completed the program and received their certificates.
The Simple Steps for Starting Your Business program generated an enthusiastic response from the inmates, awakening a quest for more business knowledge. Attendees were engaged in the sessions, asking questions, and working hard on their business plans and Shark Tank presentations. These presentations were well done and highly successful. Since its launch, the popularity of the program has grown significantly. Requests to attend the program have increased to the point where classes are oversubscribed and attendance had to be restricted. Upcoming classes are planned for 100 attendees in total.
The “Simple Steps for Starting Your Business” program expands the opportunities available to inmates by helping them acquire a basic understanding of what it takes to start a small business of their own. They also learn to look at things from a business perspective, and how to integrate more successfully into the working world of their communities. FCI Edgefield management has endorsed the program, and it may be offered in the future as a key element in the development of inmates who want to do better the next time around.