Confronting one of the biggest barriers to effective reintegration back into society, formerly incarcerated individuals will pitch their business ideas to a sold-out audience at the Crawford Hill Mansion later this evening. The pitch competition is being organized by Defy Colorado, a nonprofit organization helping individuals with criminal histories create legal business ventures, and will also include a panel discussion with leading entrepreneurs and officials from the Department of Corrections on innovative approaches to reducing recidivism. More information on this evening’s event is here.

Currently, more than more than 2 million people are being held in the criminal justice system, and in Colorado, where more than 20,000 men and women are currently incarcerated across the state of Colorado, where the prison population is expected to increase 20% by 2025. With a pronounced shortage of viable employment and housing opportunities, the odds of successfully breaking the cycle of incarceration are low, with more than 50% of those returning to prison within three years of release.

Enter Defy Colorado, an independent nonprofit organization working to break this cycle by offering a scalable model that includes employment readiness, character development, and entrepreneurship training inside prisons. Defy has also introduced robust post-release services such as job placement, executive mentorship, Defy Colorado startup incubation and pitch competitions.

“Colorado has made great strides in reducing the rate at which formerly incarcerated individuals return to prison by helping them find work, save money and even launch their own businesses before they’re released,” said Robert Omer, executive director of Defy Colorado. “Defy Colorado is so proud to be working with the Department of Corrections and an incredible network of partners and supporters to help our entrepreneurs break the cycle of incarceration.”

Panelists include Warden Thomas Little of Colorado State Penitentiary, Associate Warden David Sligar of LaVista Correctional Facility, Major Denny Stangier of Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility. For more information, please visit the event page at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/from-incarceration-to-graduation-celebration-tickets-66975251781.