An Atlanta Prison Innovator with a Big Smile

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Who am I?

My name is Kristen Daniel. I live in Atlanta, Georgia. And I head up – Pentorship – a social enterprise focused on reducing recidivism.

What exactly do we do?

We specifically focus on the development of dynamic and data-driven educational content so that more people have the opportunity to return home from prison with  21st Century skills. As you may know, there is a significant information lag and gap between the outside world and life in prison. We’re not only looking to close the gap, we want people prepared for opportunities that are just now on the horizon. 

We currently offer a course on entrepreneurial-thinking at an Atlanta-based prison. We also develop curriculum and content for other companies who work with returning citizens. 

Why does it matter?

More than 700,000 incarcerated individuals leave federal and state prisons every year. Reintegration into society is often difficult, resulting in astonishing recidivism; 4 out of 10 prisoners are incarcerated again within three years of release. We think education is the most effective means to break this cycle.

How did you end up doing this?

In the fall of 2010, an incarcerated man reached out to a long-time friend on the outside for a favor – his cellmate needed business advice for a venture he wanted to start when he returned home. That long-time friend called me. And I helped the cellmate by reviewing his business plan and providing feedback. Pentorship was born as a result of this favor. As the years have gone by, I’ve learned so much about education, entrepreneurship and the barriers to workforce preparation for returning citizens. We’ve continuously iterated Pentorship and have evolved to where we are today. 

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What has been your biggest learning during this whole process?

My biggest learning during this entire process is the value of experimentation. It really is worth the time and financial sacrifice to truly peel back the layers and nuances of the systemic issues such as recidivism. It took many years to arrive to where we are today, but I could not be more hopeful and excited about the direction that we’re going in as a company. I would do it all over again.

And…

Give your best advice to other up-and-coming social innovators with great ideas. 

Make sure that you listen to the people you are trying to help. Someone who has experienced the problem you’re looking to solve may have different advice for you than individuals who have not. This sounds simple, but it is not. Often times, people who control the resources to help you carry out your mission are not the same individuals who have hands on experience with the problem your venture is out to address. 

And…

And finally, what do you hope for our world?

I want to see the world become a place where there are no limits to who can learn what. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be curious, learn new things, and constantly improve their quality of life. 

And…

Thanks!

*Note: The below interviews were conducted in 2012 when the enterprise was called the Pentorship Program. It has subsequently been renamed Pentorship.

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