Mercy Corps Northwest Entrepreneurship Program Expands to Empower Incarcerated Men

United States

April 12, 2019

Mercy Corps Northwest enrolls the first cohort of students at the all men's prison in Portland, Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore — Mercy Corps Northwest is expanding its entrepreneurial programme for people who are incarcerated to the Columbia River Correctional Facility for Men in April 2019. Mercy Corps Northwest’s Lifelong Information for Entrepreneurs (LIFE) programme is a six to seven monthlong course designed to empower participants with the business and personal development skills to become financially independent once released. Previously, the programme operated exclusively in an all-women facility.

“A huge hurdle people face after they’re released from prison is not having the know-how to become financially stable or secure a job, which increases their likelihood of committing another crime and ending up back in prison,” says Effie Bustamante, Prison & Reentry Services Programme Manager for Mercy Corps Northwest. “The LIFE Programme addresses this challenge head-on by teaching attainable and applicable business and life skills to set participants up for success after they leave prison.”

Mercy Corps Northwest first launched the LIFE Programme in 2007 at Oregon’s only all-women correctional institution, Coffee Creek. Over the past 12 years, the programme has reduced recidivism rates, promoted economic stability and inspired graduates to start their own small businesses. In 2018, LIFE Graduates were 63 percent less likely to be convicted of a new misdemeanor or felony compared to non-LIFE graduates at Coffee Creek.

“We are extremely excited to have Mercy Corps Northwest’s LIFE programme come to Columbia River Correctional Institution. The LIFE curriculum will open many doors for the adults in custody at Columbia River,” says James K. Hanley, Acting Correctional Rehabilitation Manager at Columbia River Correctional Facility. “The knowledge and tools gained throughout the course will help them successfully transition back to their communities where great opportunities await.”

The first cohort of 15 participants will graduate from Columbia River this fall, joining a larger community of over 250 LIFE Graduates.

About Mercy Corps Northwest

As part of Mercy Corps, Mercy Corps Northwest is committed to advancing human potential for positive change. Across Oregon and Washington, Mercy Corps Northwest serves communities by providing business education, financing and equitable opportunities – with the vision of breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty for good.

For more information about the LIFE Programme and Mercy Corps Northwest, please visit