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OR Prison Program Offers Help, Hope for Women

October 29, 2008

Wilsonville, OR - At the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, "LIFE" is not a prison sentence, it's a new beginning: The LIFE program teaches business savvy to women in prison. The students named it, to stand for "Lifelong Information for Entrepreneurs," and the course combines small business and personal skills to prepare people for self-employment. Doug Cooper, with the program sponsor Mercy Corps, is one of the instructors.

"I've taught in a lot of different situations, and I don't think I've ever taught in a better learning environment. The women are so anxious to learn. They really want to improve their lives, and they're very serious students."

Cooper says one reason people end up back in prison is their inability to find work, and this program directly addresses that need.

"There is very much a stigma attached to those who have served time. One of the viable alternatives is to be self-employed or creating your own small business. Even if they choose not to do that, if we can help them change their thinking to a more entrepreneurial attitude, like taking control and actively planning their lives, that's a very successful outcome for us."

The LIFE course takes six months, and Cooper says the women who complete it also help teach the next group. More than 60 students have graduated so far. He adds that the LIFE program is working well enough that Mercy Corps is considering offering the curriculum to prisons in other states.

Mercy Corps is a Portland-based relief and development agency best known for its international disaster aid.

More detailed information concerning the LIFE program is available online at the Mercy Corps website,
www.mercycorps.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR