Just before he is released on June 23rd, if all goes to plan, Mr Amaya will graduate from the Prison Entrepreneurship Programme (PEP), a remarkable effort to prepare some of Texas's harder cases for their transition back to freedom. The programme was founded in 2004 by Catherine Rohr, a venture capitalist who changed careers after visiting several Texas prisons.
Her premise is that many criminals are intelligent people with good heads for business and healthy appetites for risk, and that these traits can be put to productive use. She is particularly interested in people who have already demonstrated these skills—for example by running a successful drug business or achieving a high rank in a gang.
Participants say that PEP provides male role models, and helps them have hope for the future. Ms Rohr considers it her job to build character. “They're not in here because they were bad businessmen,” she says. “They're in here because they were lacking moral values in their lives.”
(in this week's Economist, which also has a special feature on the Wall Street crisis, which would appear to have been precipitated by intelligent people with good heads for business and unhealthy appetites for risk)