Entrepreneurship as a Reentry Strategy

Step Out is a non-profit aiming to help incarcerated women by providing them with life skills through entrepreneurial training and resources.

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Photo Credit: Mercy Corps

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Checks can be sent to Step Out Inc. PO Box 8526 Burlington VT, 05402

Our Mission

Step Out’s mission is to aid and empower women with significant barriers to employment to accomplish transformative self change and to find meaningful work.

Our Values

Step Out aims to integrate Vermont’s public health, economic development, and criminal justice systems to achieve these goals and to build community.

LIFE Program

LIFE classes are based on a framework that builds on emotional regulation and peer learning to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and leverages the potential of self-employment.

Addressing the Issues at Hand

"Step Out is unique and important in facilitating transformative change for justice-involved women to find purposeful work."

- Cheryl Diersch, Step Out Executive Director and LIFE Co-Facilitator at CRCF

Support against Recidivism

When Mercy Corp asked LIFE graduates barriers to reintegration, what would help keep them out of prison; more women cited types of social support or personal accountability, rather than structural supports:

“I feel like I’m up against a wall because I don’t have a job, so I can’t get my own apartment, so I can’t get my son. As soon as I have an apartment, I can have him overnight on weekends, and then he can come home.”

Many women talked about how overwhelming the cultural shift from being in prison to being out and identified the resulting anxiety as a barrier:

“At first, I still felt like I had that big orange stamp on my back. And then it just all of a sudden went away. Oh, it was very hard at first. As time went by, it became much easier for me.”

LIFE graduate interviewees said action planning and communication were the two life skills most often mentioned as being helpful:

“My communication skills are a lot better. I’m more aware of what people are feeling or thinking. Because of that class, I take that into consideration instead of just jumping the gun and reacting…I’m more aware of what I’m saying than I was before, which is good, because that was one of my downfalls before.”

ACLU of Vermont Executive Director, James Lyall continues:

“After years in decline, Vermont’s prison population is again increasing. That trend is fueled in part by our community supervision system—probation, parole, and furlough—which returns people to prison at the highest rate in the country, 70% of those for technical violations like lack of housing and curfew violations.”

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