Founded in 2017, we exist to build a loving society in which hope is restored, every life is honored and economic opportunity is a right, not a privilege. Utilizing entrepreneurship as a tool for connection and transformation, we provide the best opportunity for people to embrace their inner entrepreneur and leverage their strengths in a whole new light. Defy Colorado is an independently governed, non-profit organization that operates in a collaborative relationship with Defy Ventures, a national

organization, and delivers the Defy Ventures program under license from Defy Ventures. Defy Colorado believes in legitimate first chances, no matter how late in life that chance arrives. We believe in partnership, not pity. From the very beginning of our program, we refer to every person who participates as an Entrepreneur-in-Training (EIT), helping these individuals shatter perceptions by providing an opportunity for enhanced self-efficacy. And when people believe they can be better, they do better.

In the state of Colorado, it costs roughly $39,000/year to incarcerate just one individual…

…our eight (8)-month, in-prison program, CEO of Your New Life, costs $1,300 per EIT.

Defy Colorado launched at AVCF and CSP in November 2017, serving just the male population. In April 2019, we were thrilled to begin serving women at LVCF as we continue to grow, do better and inspire legitimate first chances for more people with criminal histories across the state of Colorado.


Stacey Putka

Executive Director

Stacey believes fiercely in challenging perceptions and in the power of transformation. Growing up in an entrepreneurial household, with a father who took full advantage of his second chance in life after recovering from addiction, Stacey has always been inspired to facilitate transformation in the lives of others. Stacey received a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Colorado State University and a master’s in social work from the University of Denver. Prior to joining Defy Colorado, Stacey provided mental health and substance abuse treatment to men on parole and probation.

Ismerai McCarragher

Program Director

Izzy believes people are not meant to do life alone and that laugher is healing. Her belief stems from personal experience. When she immigrated from Mexico with her mother, the community they found helped a single mother get back on her feet. Izzy was adopted by her father. The acceptance extended to her by her adopted father’s family helped strengthen her drive for connection and humor. Izzy had the privilege of being mentored by professionals. This mentorship allowed her to practice her skills while learning from the lives of others. These experiences led Izzy to gain her Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology and her Master of Arts in Youth and Family Development. Today she uses her expertise to form community and educational programs.

Nick Scofield

Senior Operations Associate

Nick has been with Defy Ventures Colorado from the very beginning—starting with DVC’s first cohort at Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility. He has a background in IT and web development, having spent nearly eight years leading a website that generated $10-16M in revenue for the state of Colorado annually. Having attended the Bachelors of Marketing program at Metropolitan State University of Denver, he looks forward to matching his technical skills with his deep understanding of the struggles Defy’s graduates face upon release.

Belle Phelan

Program Associate

Belle is a graduate of the first cohort Defy launched at La Vista, earning co-valedictorian honors along with a finalist finish. She passionately believes that no one should be remembered only for the worst decision they ever made. She is using her lived experience to challenge the perceptions of what prison is like for women and what re-entry can look like. While inside, she completed Cosmetology, the Art of Being Human, the Inside-Out Prison Exchange, Beyond Thinking, and served as a Peer Education Mentor and a 7 Habits Core Group Member. She worked as the Pre-Release Clerk and assisted in the development and implementation of the Re-Entry Unit Program at La Vista. She is the first Fellow named at the Prison Journalism Project and is the visionary behind the graduate program at The Realness Project. She was the first woman from La Vista to be published in The Inside Report and has an essay published in the CCJRC Go Guide about being successful on parole.


Jacki Cooper Melmed

Chief Legal Counsel for Governor Jared Polis

Tyrone Glover

Attorney at Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP

Tom Wyman

Partner at Building Ventures

Kevin Klau

President at Hach

Jenn Mendelson

Principal at Leap Interior Design, LLC

Jenna Walker

Co-Founder and CEO of Material Change

Krissy Ostermiller at CSP

Krissy Ostermiller

Founder, YA•YE Organics


Dave Naus

Founder, Equity West Investment Partners
Partner, First Capital Ventures

Tim Wolf

President of Wolf Interests, Inc.

Jeff Wasden

President of the Colorado Business Roundtable


We think that after people serve their time, they’ve repaid their debt to society and should be given the chance to start fresh. However, the reality is far different because more often than not in the U.S., recidivism rates are far higher than anywhere else in the world, creating a vicious cycle of incarceration. Defy Colorado is committed to breaking this cycle.
Defy is committed to doing better.
Our programs harness the innate entrepreneurial talents of people with criminal histories and redirect them toward the creation of legal businesses and careers. Defy Colorado has demonstrated the effectiveness of an “inside-out” solution to the problems of recidivism and mass incarceration, allowing Defy EITs to journey from their time in prison to economic independence. Providing rigorous employment readiness, character development and entrepreneurship training inside prisons as well as robust post-release services, including job placement, executive mentorship, startup incubation and pitch competitions, Defy Colorado offers a welcome back to society that eases the re-entry process and provides individuals with the tools they need to succeed.
Leveraging a blended learning model, Defy combines the scalability, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of video-based training with life-transforming opportunities for growth through in-person coaching and mentoring.