In the visitors room of the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center in Vandalia, nine women stand dressed in bright blue caps and gowns. They’re the first to graduate from ASPIRE MO, a program designed to teach inmates the entrepreneurial skills to start a business once they leave prison.
The 20-week program teaches them various skills like market projections, advertising and feasibility studies. By the end of the course, they make a comprehensive business plan.
Kellie Ann Coats, director of the Missouri Women’s Council, said she came up with the idea during a meeting with the Anne Precythe, Missouri’s director of corrections. Coats was told that Missouri had the fastest-growing female prison population in the country.
“That really struck me,” Coats said. “I was like ‘Wow, what is going on, and what are we doing to help them?’”
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