Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed a bill into law creating a program to teach Illinois prison inmates’ business skills.

The goal of the legislation is to decrease recidivism by providing inmates with opportunities to acquire business skills for use after release. The legislation establishes a 5 year pilot program similar to one already in place in the Texas Department of Corrections.

Under the Prisoner Entrepreneur Education Program (PEEP), inmates would learn business skills including budgeting, computer skills, and public speaking. The business skills training would supplement the Illinois Department of Corrections’ existing training in a number of vocations such as automotive technology, cosmetology, print management, welding and many others.

House Bill 698 (effective August 24, 2017) establishes a 5 year pilot project to provide inmates with useful business skills for use after release from prison in an effort to reduce recidivism rates for self-motivated individuals. The PEEP consists of a rigorous curriculum, and participants will be taught business skills, such as computer skills, budgeting, creating a business plan, public speaking, and realistic goal setting. Inmates who complete the PEEP will be awarded a Certificate of Completion. The General Assembly may also establish post release assistance for those completing the program that could include drafting a resume and cover letter, searching for employment, networking events, and mock interviews. Funding for PEEP will come from money appropriated to the IDOC for this purpose.

The inmates in PEEP must never have been convicted of a major sex offense, vulnerable victim’s sex offense, or child pornography.

Inmates who obtain the Certificate of Completion in the program will retain rights, control and possession of all products created by the participant during the course of the program. The rights shall include intellectual property rights and rights in trade secrets. The IDOC shall have no rights to sell, use, distribute, market, possess, or control any product created by a participant during the course of the Prisoner Entrepreneur Education Program.