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Overcoming the Walls That Constrain Us: The Role of Entrepreneurship

Education Programs in Prison

Article  in  Academy of Management Learning and Education, The · January 2014


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3 authors:

Holger Patzelt Trenton A Williams

Technische Universität München Indiana University Bloomington


Dean A. Shepherd
University of Notre Dame


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姝 Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2014, Vol. 13, No. 4, 587–620. http://dx.doi.org/10.5465/amle.2013.0094


Overcoming the Walls That

Constrain Us:
The Role of Entrepreneurship
Education Programs in Prison
Technische Universität München

Indiana University

Although the number of prisoners has risen globally, educational efforts to help them
return to society as productive members have yielded only mixed results. We propose that
entrepreneurship education might be particularly valuable for prisoners because self-
employment as an occupational career path can help overcome potential employers’
discriminatory attitudes toward ex-prisoners, and by developing an entrepreneurial mind-
set, individuals whose career paths have been terminated can begin to form an
attitudinal foundation from which to rebuild a future. Using a multiple case study method
to analyze 12 participants of a European prison entrepreneurship educational program,
we find that without a “personal agency mind-set—namely, the set of assumptions, belief
systems, and self-regulation capabilities through which individuals intentionally exercise
influence (i.e., act) as opposed to residing as a discrete entity (i.e., acted upon)—prisoners
were unable to make sense of the past or orient themselves toward the future, both of
which are necessary to identify and develop opportunities and ultimately to persist with
an entrepreneurship educational program. Rather than being an outcome of an
entrepreneurship education program, recognizing a potential opportunity was a critical
input to successful completion. We found that recognizing a potential opportunity is an
important vehicle for transforming prisoners’ attitudes toward entrepreneurship,
imprisonment, and other individuals.

The United States hosts the highest number of pris- United Kingdom (0.1%), France (0.1%), and Ger-
oners worldwide. In 2010, more than 2.2 million many (0.1%), they are also associated with sub-
individuals were sentenced prisoners, represent- stantial societal costs (Beckford, 2012; Sedgley,
ing 0.7% of the total population (Walmsley, 2011). Scott, Williams, & Derrick, 2010). The high numbers
The costs associated with imprisonment are esti- of prisoners are even more alarming given the
mated to be more than U.S. $30 billion per year mixed effects of imprisonment on inmates’ behav-
(Kyckelhahn, 2012). Although prison rates are ior after release; studies have found that between
somewhat lower in other Western countries (Tava- one third and two thirds relapse (Langan & Levin,
rez & Thomas, 2009; Walmsley, 2011), such as the 2002; Walmsley, 2011). As a result, many prisons
have introduced educational programs to help in-
The authors thank Dawn DeTienne and three anonymous re- mates move on with their lives after release, find
viewers for their helpful comments. careers (Chappell, 2004; Costelloe & Langelid,
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588 Academy of Management Learning & Education December

2011), and make productive— or at least not de- ate insights that would not be possible through
structive— contributions to society (Costelloe & top-down theorizing from existing studies or exper-
Langelid, 2011). imental approaches (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1997;
However, while some authors emphasize the Glaser & Strauss, 1967). The setting of this research
success of these programs (e.g., Fabelo, 2002; Sau- is a voluntary 20-week entrepreneurship educa-
ers, 2009), others find that their results are mixed tional program for 12 inmates in a European
(e.g., Linden & Perry, 1983; Wilson, Gallangher, & prison. The prisoners in our sample had diverse
MacKenzie, 2000). The mixed results of education educational and occupational backgrounds and
programs in prisons has been attributed, at least were in the midst of serving sentences ranging
in part, to the negative attitudes of employers to- from 1.5 to 6.5 years (with a range of 6 –30 months
ward ex-prisoners: Employers are often unwilling remaining on those sentences), and the crimes for
to hire people with criminal records (Case & Fa- which they were convicted included attempted ho-
senfest, 2004; Duwe & Clark, 2013) because of the micide, drug dealing, and arson. Indeed, our study
social (Bushway, Stoll, & Weiman, 2007; Cooney, offers a number of new insights.
2012) and legal (Hahn, 1991) stigma of ex-prisoners First, the entrepreneurship education literature
as well as employers’ concerns that ex-prisoners has typically studied the effect of entrepreneurship
could victimize firm stakeholders (Moss & Tilly, programs on participants’ abilities to recognize op-
2001), steal cash and other firm resources (Holzer, portunities (DeTienne & Chandler, 2004), entrepre-
Raphael, & Stoll, 2004), or become violent in the neurial intentions (e.g., Oosterbeek, van Praag, &
workplace (Moss & Tilly, 2001). However, it has also Ijsselstein, 2010; Peterman & Kennedy, 2003; Soui-
been suggested that the prisoners themselves taris, Zerbinati, & Al-Laham, 2007; von Graevenitz,
need to fundamentally change their attitudes to Harhoff, & Weber, 2010), and new venture success
successfully avoid subsequent criminal activity (Lerner & Malmendier, 2011), but little is known
(Giordano, Cernkovich, & Rudolph, 2002; Kiriakidis, about how participants’ characteristics impact pro-
2008). In both respects, entrepreneurship education gram completion. Anecdotal evidence suggests
might be particularly valuable for prisoners be- that program completion of educational programs
cause self-employment as an occupational career appears to be a major problem in prisons (e.g., 16
path can help overcome potential employers’ dis- completions out of 31 enrolled in one educational
criminatory attitudes toward ex-prisoners (Bush- program; Parrotta & Thompson, 2011). Indeed, we
way et al., 2007; Cooney, 2012), and by developing found that some inmates—although voluntarily
an entrepreneurial mind-set, individuals whose enrolled in the program and selected through an
career paths have been terminated can begin to effortful multistep process— did not have the atti-
form an attitudinal foundation from which to re- tude required for persistence. Without the personal
build a future (Haynie & Shepherd, 2011). Indeed, agency mind-set—namely, the set of assumptions,
entrepreneurship education programs have re- belief systems, and self-regulation capabilities
cently been introduced in U.S. and European pris- through which individuals intentionally exercise
ons, and initial anecdotal evidence suggests that influence (i.e., act) as opposed to residing as a
they can help prisoners “get back on track,” for discrete entity (i.e., acted upon; Bandura, 2001)—
example, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program in that we typically find in university students (Kuh,
Texas (Sauers, 2009). 1999; Schmidt, 2002), prisoners were unable to
However, two important research questions re- make sense of the past or orient themselves toward
main as to how entrepreneurship education pro- the future, both of which are necessary to identify
grams impact prisoners’ attitudes (as antecedents and develop opportunities and ultimately to per-
to both desistance from criminal activity, Giordano sist with an entrepreneurship educational pro-
et al., 2002; Kiriakidis, 2008, and recognizing oppor- gram that transforms their attitudes about them-
tunities to create value, Gregoire & Shepherd, 2012) selves, their situation, and others. We develop this
and why some prisoners are more likely than oth- notion of a prisoner’s personal agency mind-set as
ers to persist with and thus benefit from entrepre- a necessary requirement for entrepreneurship
neurship educational programs. Because prior re- education.
search has not yet addressed the above research Second, previous research on entrepreneurship
questions, we draw on a multiple case study meth- education has investigated how students can be
odology to develop new theory on the topic. Using taught to better recognize (DeTienne & Chandler,
qualitative data provides the opportunity to gener- 2004; Munoz, Mosey, & Binks, 2011), evaluate (Saks
2014 Patzelt, Williams, and Shepherd 589

& Gaglio, 2002), and plan to exploit (Honig, 2004; neurship education in a college degree setting (Ku-
Kwong, Thompson, & Cheung, 2012) opportunities. ratko, 2005), a few also focus on professional pro-
We found that rather than being an outcome of an grams (Gartner & Vesper, 1994). The central goal of
entrepreneurial education program, recognizing a most research on entrepreneurship education has
potential opportunity was a critical input to the been to investigate the impact of entrepreneurship
successful completion of the program by prisoners. educational programs on individuals’ intention to
With recognizing a potential opportunity as an in- act entrepreneurially and the performance of the
put to successful program completion, we extend businesses created by these students subsequent
current theory on how to teach opportunity recog- to these educational programs.
nition (DeTienne & Chandler, 2004; Munoz et al., First, entrepreneurship education programs pro-
2011) and discuss when it should be taught in an vide knowledge about several aspects of bringing a
entrepreneurship course, at least in the prison new business to life. These aspects include, for ex-
context. ample, the characteristics of an entrepreneurial
Last, although research on opportunity recogni- mind-set, entrepreneurial intention development, op-
tion has focused on the economic potential of such portunity identification and analysis, business plan-
opportunities (Shane, 2000; Shepherd & DeTienne, ning, new venture finance, and managing and grow-
2005), the potential to positively impact the natural ing the venture (Hisrich, Peters, & Shepherd, 2013).
environment (Patzelt & Shepherd, 2011), and the This knowledge about entrepreneurship can en-
potential to improve the well-being of others hance individuals’ entrepreneurial self-efficacy—
(Miller, Wesley, & Williams, 2012; Smith & Wood- that is, the belief that they can successfully exe-
worth, 2012), we found that recognizing a potential cute the tasks related to founding a new venture
opportunity was an important vehicle for trans- (McGee, Peterson, Mueller, & Sequeira, 2009; Zhao,
forming prisoners’ attitudes toward entrepreneur- Seibert, & Hills, 2005), thus increasing their entre-
ship, imprisonment, and other individuals; that is, preneurial intentions (Krueger, Reilly, & Carsrud,
for the prisoners in our study, the (potential) entre- 2000). In addition to the relationship between en-
preneurial opportunity—regardless of its eco- trepreneurial education and the development of
nomic, environmental, or prosocial potential— had entrepreneurial competence (actual or perceived),
the power to transform their lives by enabling research has shown that compared to other occu-
them to think positively and constructively about pations entrepreneurship education can enhance
the future and their current environment. Even one’s perception that entrepreneurship is a desir-
if the economic potential of the opportunity recog- able career path. For example, Souitaris, Zerbinati,
nized by the prisoners is low, transforming prison- and Al-Laham, (2007: 573) found that the major trig-
ers’ attitudes can yield substantial benefits for ger of students’ increased entrepreneurial intent
these individuals and society as a whole (Beckford, was inspiration: “a change of hearts (emotion) and
2012; Kyckelhahn, 2012). minds (motivation) evoked by events or inputs from
In subsequent sections we first briefly review the the programme and directed toward considering
current literature on entrepreneurship education. becoming an entrepreneur.” Inputs that might in-
Second, we describe the research method. We then spire program participants and enhance their per-
detail the theoretical insights that emerged from ceived desirability of entrepreneurial action in-
the data about the antecedents and consequences clude the views of professors, mentors, external
of entrepreneurship education in a prison context. speakers, visiting entrepreneurs, classmates, and
We end by discussing the implications of our judges of a business plan competition as well as
findings. preparing for the competition (Krueger et al., 2000;
Peterman & Kennedy, 2003; Smith & Woodworth,
2012; Souitaris et al., 2007). Moreover, since entre-
preneurship educational programs offer social in-
Entrepreneurship education varies across contexts teractions with other participants, lecturers, and
and includes courses associated with posthigh mentors, participants enhance perceptions that en-
school programs as well as traditional 2- and trepreneurship is also a socially desirable career
4-year undergraduate degree programs either path (Peterman & Kennedy, 2003; Smith & Wood-
within or external to business schools (e.g., in worth, 2012; Souitaris et al., 2007).
schools of agriculture, engineering, and music; see However, despite the informational and motiva-
Katz, 2003). While most studies focus on entrepre- tional benefits of entrepreneurship education, the
590 Academy of Management Learning & Education December

effects differ substantially across programs and investigate how entrepreneurship education im-
participants. For example, von Graevenitz and col- pacts course completion and prisoners’ attitudes
leagues (2010) found that some students of entre- and why these effects differ across program par-
preneurship courses discover that entrepreneur- ticipants (cf. Eisenhardt, 1989b; Yin, 2008).
ship is not a well-suited career option for them, Our research setting was a 20-week entrepre-
thus discouraging them from starting a business neurship educational program offered in a Euro-
after such courses. This argument helps explain pean prison. The prison hosts 720 inmates and
why some studies have found that entrepreneur- employs 250 staff. Although the prison context is
ship education programs diminish participants’ difficult to access for outsiders because the in-
average entrepreneurial intentions (Oosterbeek et mates’ privacy is highly protected, we had the
al., 2010; von Graevenitz et al., 2010). Similarly, a unique opportunity to leverage personal contact
recent study (Lerner & Malmendier, 2011) found with the two initiator-instructors of the program
that learning about entrepreneurial opportunities, who helped us acquire permission from the prison
risks, and one’s own abilities discouraged stu- authorities and, as important, all program partici-
dents from becoming entrepreneurs on average, pants needed to conduct the study. The program
but it had a positive impact on the quality of busi- itself was not part of the prison’s internal educa-
nesses founded. tional system but was managed and funded by an
To summarize, the key insight from the entrepre- independent social venture founded and run by the
neurship education literature is that individuals two program instructors. The program was struc-
can profit from such educational programs in tured with two units per week (Mondays and Fri-
terms of entrepreneurial knowledge and motiva- days), each covering approximately 3.5 hrs. The
tion as well as subsequent venture success but program’s content was structured in three basic
that these benefits are not automatic and differ modules, as detailed in the Appendix. At the end of
across programs and participants. Although this Week 20, participants presented their ideas to a
literature (implicitly or explicitly) assumes that panel of business people and venture investors.
education-stimulated entrepreneurial activity yields Potential program participants were selected in
economic benefits for the entrepreneur (DeTienne & late 2010 through a thorough multistep application
Chandler, 2004; Honig, 2004) or social benefits for process. An important issue the prison authorities
society (Kickul, Janssen-Selvadurai, & Griffiths, 2012; considered was that the program should not “turn
Pache & Chowdhury, 2012), the prison context offers bad criminals into good criminals;” therefore, in
an opportunity to study how the recognition and de- the first step, prison authorities selected potential
velopment of potential opportunities during an en- candidates based on four criteria. First, sexual and
trepreneurship program for prisoners can yield more serial offenders were excluded from consideration
positive attitudes toward themselves, their situation, due to the severity of their crimes and the particu-
and others. larly high probability of recidivism. Second, can-
didates had to be fluent in the national language
in which the program was held. Third, as a mini-
RESEARCH METHOD mal level of education, candidates needed to have
completed the equivalent of a high school educa-
Research Design and Setting
tion. Fourth, the remaining prison sentence at the
To generate new theory on the effects of entrepre- time of application had to be between 6 and
neurship education in a prison context, we draw on 30 months because a shorter time to release
a multiple case study approach, which is particu- would not allow for program completion, and a
larly appropriate when there is relatively little the- longer time would make the “spillover” of program
oretical precedent for a deductive study (Eisen- effects to life after release unlikely according to
hardt, 1989b; Yin, 2008), as is the case for this the prison authorities’ opinions.
research on prisoner education. The use of multi- Overall, 48 candidates were identified in this
ple cases and comparisons across cases allows the first step of the selection process and were invited
researcher to recognize and evaluate relationships to join two information events on the program and
among constructs, and therefore, new theoretical its content, the first held by the prison authorities
insights (Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007; Yin, 2008). A and the second by the program instructors. After
multiple case study approach is particularly ap- the information events, 15 candidates still showed
propriate for our research questions because we interest in participating in the program. Further
2014 Patzelt, Williams, and Shepherd 591

selection was undertaken by the two course in- Data Collection

structors. First, the remaining 15 candidates com-
The primary source of data for our theory building
pleted two written exams testing their abilities to
was semistructured interviews with program par-
focus and learn. Second, the potential participants
ticipants and the course instructors, which is con-
filled out an extensive application form providing
sistent with most case-based work (e.g., Eisen-
information on their criminal records, drug histo-
hardt, 1989a; Gilbert, 2006). Interviews with
ries, occupational pasts, and family backgrounds. participants were conducted face to face by the
This information constituted the basis of subse- first author (who has a background in manage-
quent interviews by the instructors with interested ment) and a research assistant (with a background
candidates. Finally, 10 of the 15 candidates were in psychology). We interviewed the four partici-
admitted to the program, which began in January pants who started at the beginning of the course
2011. One of the 10 initial participants was moved and completed it successfully on three occasions
to another prison shortly after the start of the pro- (for internal reasons, prison authorities allowed us
gram and was, therefore, excluded from our anal- to interview inmates only in Weeks 1, 12, and 20).
yses. Because another 5 of the remaining 9 partic- The three participants who entered the course later
ipants voluntarily dropped out of the program and completed it successfully were interviewed
between Week 6 and Week 8 (see below), three twice (Weeks 12 and 20). As mentioned, five of the
additional candidates who did not participate in initial 10 participants dropped out of the program
the original selection process (because they (and one was moved to another prison and thus
were not informed that the course was taking excluded from analysis). Although all these partic-
place) were admitted to the running course in ipants were interviewed at the start of the pro-
Week 10 based on a slightly shortened admission gram, only one was interviewed after he dropped
process (i.e., prison authorities’ selection criteria, out of the program; the others refused multiple
application form, and an interview with course requests for a postdrop-out interview. Thus, we
instructors). As with the four persisting initial can- conducted 25 interviews with program participants
didates, the three participants admitted later com- over the time frame of the course. Due to time
pleted the program successfully. In Table 1, we constraints, interviews were limited to 30 min on
provide details about the 12 participants constitut- average (interviews could only occur during the
ing our sample (cases) in terms of their criminal time allocated for the program). During the inter-
records, their sentences, and whether they com- view, only the interviewers and the interviewee
pleted the course successfully or dropped out be- were present in a room next to the classroom, and
fore the course was finished. To protect anonymity, the interviewees were guaranteed that their re-
we use artificial names that either start with a sponses were confidential and would only be re-
capital letter “P” for those who persisted in the ported in a way that maintained anonymity. In
program or with a “D” for those who dropped out. addition, one participant provided relatives’ con-

Informant Descriptive Data
Entrepreneurial Previously Time Time Reason for Persisted/
Participant Age Education experience imprisoned served remaining imprisonment Dropped?

Paul 26 Master’s Degree (Engineering) No No ⬎1 Year ⬎1 Year Attempted homicide Persisted

Peter 29 Vocational (Chef) No No ⬍1 Year ⬍1 Year Attempted homicide Persisted
Peyton 30 Vocational (Merchant) Yes No ⬎1 Year ⬎1 Year Attempted homicide Persisted
Philip 27 High School/Some Vocational No Yes ⬎1 Year ⬍1 Year Drug-related Persisted
Perry 30 Some Vocational (Dental) No No ⬎1 Year ⬎1 Year Drugs & arms Persisted
Parker 43 University Degree Yes No ⬍1 Year ⬎1 Year Attempted homicide Persisted
Patrick 38 High School No No ⬎1 Year ⬍1 Year Drug-related Persisted
Donald 30 High School/Some Vocational Yes No ⬎1 Year ⬎1 Year Arson Dropped
David 24 High School No Yes ⬍1 Year ⬍1 Year Drug-related Dropped
Derek 56 University Degree (Education) Yes No ⬎1 Year ⬎1 Year Attempted homicide Dropped
Daniel 25 High School/Some Vocational No No ⬎1 Year ⬎1 Year Attempted homicide Dropped
Darren 35 Vocational (Merchant) Yes Yes ⬍1 Year ⬎1 Year Drug-related Dropped
592 Academy of Management Learning & Education December

tact information (i.e., his mother and sister), both of ings, using multiple sources and modes of evi-
whom accepted invitations for an interview at the dence” to confirm (or at least not contradict) a qual-
first author’s university office. These interviews itative finding (Miles & Huberman, 1994: 234 –235).
with relatives lasted about 1 hr and were con- In inductive studies such as this one, triangulation
ducted in Week 18. Interviews with the two course most often involves subjecting a finding to an “on-
instructors were conducted (either via telephone or slaught of a series of imperfect measures” (Webb
face to face) in Weeks 1, 5, 8, 12, 16, and 20 (five of et al., 1965) to corroborate findings generated from
the six interviews were conducted with both in- the primary data source. To accomplish this objec-
structors present). These interviews lasted be- tive, we analyzed five additional sources of data
tween 60 and 120 min and were mainly used to to test the validity of our findings as revealed
assess each participant’s behavior and perfor- through the interviews described above.
mance in the course. All interviews were tran- First, with the permission of the course instruc-
scribed and translated into English. The transla- tors and participants, we accessed the extensive
tions were verified by an independent research application forms the participants completed be-
assistant who is fluent in English and the native fore entering the course to corroborate information
language in which the interviews were conducted. relating to the informants’ past. These forms cov-
The transcribed interviews resulted in 373 pages ered, for example, details on the prisoners’ per-
(single-spaced) of primary source material. sonal history and family situation, a letter explain-
The course participants’ interviews were struc- ing their motivation for taking the course, and their
tured into several sections. For the first interview criminal record and drug-consumption history.
(Week 1), these sections included (1) the prisoners’ Thus, while drawing from the same source (the
motivation to participate in the course, (2) personal
program participants), the use of a separate
history and experiences, (3) participants’ knowl-
method helps corroborate information provided in
edge about entrepreneurship, (4) prison life and
the interviews (Miles & Huberman, 1994: 235). Sec-
participants’ relationship with other inmates, and
ond, since this entrepreneurship program was run
(5) future plans. The second interview (Week 12)
for the first time in this particular prison, it re-
centered on the following sections: (1) an assess-
ceived considerable attention in newspapers,
ment of the course so far, (2) important lessons
business press, and popular journals and maga-
learned, (3) the business idea currently developed,
zines. We collected 18 articles from these sources.
(4) reasons for others dropping out and reasons for
Further, we had available one radio interview and
the participants’ persistence, (5) prison life, and (6)
future plans. Last, the third interview (Week 20) two television reports about the program. These
covered (1) an assessment of the course as a whole, data were corroborative in that they drew from
(2) important lessons learned, (3) the business idea separate sources (i.e., included interviews and in-
currently developed, (4) prison life, and (5) future sights from those not included in our database)
plans. In addition to interviews, while onsite, we utilizing a separate method (i.e., investigative re-
took notes on our impressions and other observa- porting). Data from these multiple sources were
tions as we engaged in conversations with prison used for supplementary analyses and triangula-
staff, prison authorities, business plan panel mem- tion of primary source data. Third, we captured all
bers, and visitors who attended the business plan correspondence and informal discussions between
presentation at the end of the course. We recorded ourselves and both prison staff and prison leader-
field notes on our onsite observations as soon as ship (i.e., e-mails and informal discussions), pro-
possible—typically on our way back to the office viding evidence outside the formal interview set-
from prison. These observations, insights, and im- ting that supported our findings. Fourth, each
pressions were later used to supplement interview week, one participant documented the main events
transcriptions as well as confirm emerging theo- and lessons from the course in a web diary on the
retical perspectives during analysis. program’s webpage. We added these updates to
Further, we supplemented data from interviews our comprehensive database, and again, used
and observations with data from several other them in triangulating our findings. Last, we ob-
sources for the purpose of triangulation (Denzin, tained final copies of the written business plans
1970; Miles & Huberman, 1994; Webb, Streufort, De- and the presentation material for the business
Padova, & McGlynn, 1965). Triangulation involves plan contest, and we personally attended the final
“self-consciously set[ting] out to double-check find- business plan presentation.
2014 Patzelt, Williams, and Shepherd 593

In sum, this supplementary data included 550 illustrate the multiple sources used for data collec-
(single-spaced) pages of text that complemented tion in this study (Figure 1a,1b), which program
and validated the participants’ and course instruc- periods were covered by which data (Figure 1b),
tors’ statements in the interviews. In Figure 1, we and the point in time when data were generated

Participant Information and Data Sources
594 Academy of Management Learning & Education December

(Figure 1c). Data from different sources, the use of questions (Yin, 2008). Segments were classified
structured interview guides, and multiple visits and assigned to nodes that emerged during the
onsite allowed us to at least partially address classification process. At this stage, we began
weaknesses inherent in interview data, such as loosely trying to identify consistent issues, dilem-
retrospective bias and informant bias arising from mas, solutions, or actions taken by our informants
interviewees’ missing introspection (Miles & Hu- (Gioia et al., 1994), using constant comparison tech-
berman, 1994; Miller, Cardinal, & Glick, 1997). niques (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). In an iterative pro-
cess, we read and reread the transcripts and coded
and recoded the data many times. This process
Data Analyses
allowed us to identify phrases and terminology
Our overall analysis is structured following estab- until the classification system covered the mate-
lished procedures for inductive, theory-building re- rial. As we began to uncover common nodes (i.e.,
search (Locke, 2001; Miles & Huberman, 1994; first-order codes; Van Maanen, 1979), we used
Strauss & Corbin, 1990), following guidelines for NVivo (version 10) to organize and analyze the data
constant comparison techniques (Glaser & Strauss, (i.e., highlighting portions of text using NVivo and
1967), and working recursively between the data assigning that text to a specific first-order code).
and emerging theory. We began analyzing the While performing this analysis, we met regularly
data with open minds to allow the data to speak to to refine coding schemes for future iterations of
us (Suddaby, 2006). That is, although we were fa- coding and to discuss potential themes that were
miliar with the literature on entrepreneurship ed- emerging. After naming the codes, we began con-
ucation and entrepreneurial intentions, we did not structing categories (groupings of codes). This al-
have preconceived propositions about the effects lowed us to refine our analysis as we revisited the
of entrepreneurship education on prisoners or pre- data. In the end, we recoded data in their entirety
dictors of how participants would vary in their five times, each time refining the codes and solid-
response to the course material. This approach1 ifying categories and subcategories. As with all
assisted us in completing three primary steps in steps in the analysis process, this approach
the data-analysis phase, in which we assessed was not linear but was a “recursive, process-
ideas discussed by informants as well as com- oriented, analytic procedure” (see also Lincoln &
pared various process events. These steps were to Guba, 1985; Locke, 1996: 240) that continued until
delineate first-order codes, subtheoretical and the- we began grasping important themes.
oretical categories, and aggregate theoretical di- After settling on a set of categories, we orga-
mensions within the data (Corley & Gioia, 2004; nized the data into large tables. In these tables, the
Gioia, Corley, & Hamilton, 2013; Gioia, Thomas, rows represented the (sub) nodes, while the col-
Clark, & Chittipeddi, 1994; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; umns specified the cases, and the cells covered the
Pratt, Rockmann, & Kaufmann, 2006). corresponding segments of text from the inter-
views or other data. From this “raw” table, we
constructed a summary table, for which the rows
Identifying Provisional Categories or First-Order
were again the nodes and the columns were the
cases, but this time, the cells represented assess-
First, we began the analysis using “open coding” ments of the level for each node (e.g., whether
(Locke, 2001), looking to identify initial categories participants’ attitudes toward others was positive
or first-order codes (Van Maanen, 1979) regarding or negative) for the corresponding case. In the end,
how program participants described their experi- we split the data at two different levels for com-
ence before, during, and after the entrepreneurship parison. First, we separated cases based on per-
program. We coded segments (i.e., chunks of text sistence in the program (i.e., seven participants
and other information) of each interview transcript completed the program and five did not). We ana-
individually as well as other data we identified as lyzed differences between these cases using the
possibly being relevant to addressing our research matrices described above. Second, we assessed
changes in attitudes from the start of the program
to the end of the program for the seven participants
Our approach is consistent with the “Gioia Method” (Gioia,
Corley, & Hamilton, 2013), an approach initially offered by Gioia who completed the course.
& Chittipeddi (1991) and later refined through subsequent stud- The assessments (i.e., the coding and matrix de-
ies (cited throughout here). velopment) were independently conducted by two
2014 Patzelt, Williams, and Shepherd 595

of the authors. The two raters had 94.8% agreement summary of the process described above for data
across all nodes, with differences occurring pre- relevant to the final result, showing our first-order
dominantly at the “margins” of the categories (e.g., categories, theoretical categories, and aggregate
one coder had assessed a node as medium-low, theoretical dimensions (consistent with Corley &
while the other had assessed it as low). The Gioia, 2004; Gioia et al., 2013; Gioia et al., 1994;
sources of disagreement were discussed until Pratt et al., 2006).
agreement was reached. We then used a cross-
case comparison to allow differences across
groups (e.g., participants who persisted with the ENTREPRENEURSHIP EDUCATION IN PRISON
program vs. dropouts) to emerge (Eisenhardt, In Figure 3, we display our model of prisoner persis-
1989b; Miles & Huberman, 1994). Consistent with tence and transformation in the entrepreneurship
moving our thinking between details and abstrac- program.2 The model is made up of three basic sec-
tions, we oscillated between the “raw” table and tions. First, we discuss how individuals varied in
the “summary” table (Strauss & Corbin, 1994). This what we describe as a prisoner’s personal agency
oscillation led to the emergence of key constructs mind-set and the role this mind-set played in
and their relationships. whether the individual completed the program. Sec-
ond, we explore the relationship of a prisoner’s per-
Aggregating First-Order Codes to Subthemes and sonal agency mind-set to recognizing a potential op-
Themes portunity, including specific mechanisms that
emerged from the data, analyzing differences be-
In the second step of our analysis, we moved from tween those who completed the program and those
open coding (Locke, 2001) to more abstract coding who did not. Last, for those who completed the pro-
of data into theoretical categories and sub- gram, we analyze changes in attitudes (toward en-
categories, or axial coding (Locke, 2001; Stauss & trepreneurship, imprisonment, and other individu-
Corbin, 1990). In doing so, we were able to compare als) from the beginning of the course to course
differences across informants (using the compari- completion. In discussing each element of the model,
son data detailed above) to isolate “outlier” state- we provide specific mechanisms for these relation-
ments from more thematic categories. For exam- ships emerging from the data and offer propositions.
ple, in coding statements in what came to be We now turn to the first part of the model.
termed as “prisoners’ personal agency mind-set,”
we were able to identify variance in each individ-
ual’s perspective on who was to blame for their Prisoners’ Personal Agency Mind-Set
situation, how optimistic they were for their future, From the 12 total participants who constitute the
and how much control they might have in directing cases of this study, five did not successfully com-
that future. Specifically, we also began identifying plete the prison educational program and volun-
variance in levels across individuals on these vari- tarily dropped out in Weeks 6 (Darren), 7 (Daniel,
ables, by highlighting and then comparing themes David), and 8 (Derek, Donald). Therefore, in our
in each individual’s statement (and as corrobo- attempt to understand and build theory on entre-
rated by secondary data). preneurship education in the prison context, our
first analysis was to investigate preprogram differ-
Aggregating Theoretical Dimensions ences between program “persisters” and dropouts.
This approach is consistent with studies in the
As the final step of our analysis, we raised the education literature highlighting that successful
level of abstraction to form a tentative view of participation in educational programs is contin-
aggregate theoretical dimensions as well as an gent on participants’ attitudes toward the program
initial view of the relationships between dimen-
sions. We began arranging the theoretical con-
cepts, iterating again between the data and the
emerging dimensions to examine fit (Glaser & Similar to other qualitative studies (e.g., Nag, Corley & Gioia,
2007; Nag & Gioia, 2012), we provide a model at the beginning of
Strauss, 1967; Locke, 2001). As primary dimensions
our analysis in spite of the (critical) fact that the model resulted
emerged, we again created tables where we could from the inductive process. We do this in order to provide clarity
compare cases across the theoretical dimensions and structure for the reader (consistent with Nag and
that emerged. In Figure 2, we provide a visual colleagues).
596 Academy of Management Learning & Education December

Data Structure Overview. Note. All data were derived from primary interviews and were supplemented with the secondary
sources as described in “data” section of the paper. Sections of data were coded (low, medium, high) by two researchers at the
first-order code, theoretical category and subcategory, and aggregate dimension levels.
2014 Patzelt, Williams, and Shepherd 597

A Model of Persistence and Transformation of Prisoners in an Entrepreneurship Program

(Busato, Prins, Elshout, & Hamaker, 2000; Harackie- dropouts who were high in learned helplessness,
wicz, Barron, Tauer, & Elliot, 2002). In particular, persisters had a different set of beliefs that appeared
those who dropped out of the program exhibited to represent a mind-set necessary for program com-
high levels of learned helplessness—the notion pletion—a personal agency mind-set.
that after punishment or failure (e.g., imprison- First, persisters took personal responsibility for
ment), people become passive and remain so even their imprisonment as opposed to assigning blame
after environmental changes (i.e., release from to external sources. On average, those who suc-
prison), which makes future success difficult (Mar- cessfully completed the program had lower levels
tinko & Gardner, 1987). In the context of this study, of external blame and took responsibility for their
learned helplessness is reflected in inmates’ blam- current situation; they turned the blame inward by
ing others for their current situations, pessimism admitting the crime and taking responsibility for
about the future, and perceived lack of control over their actions. For example, Paul stated in his first
their lives after prison. However, not all prisoners
interview, “Honestly, clearly, I do not deny that I
exhibited learned helplessness; rather, those who
made a mistake. I have hurt someone, and it is also
persisted in the entrepreneurship education program
fair that I will be punished.” Similarly, Perry said,
exhibited a very different mind-set. In particular and
“I am here because I violated the drug law and
consistent with literature on personal agency, these
dealt drugs. . . . I am not here wrongly,” and Peter
individuals took responsibility for their actions
through self-reflective self-consciousness (Bandura, admitted, “Of course, I got into fights. There are no
1986; Bandura, 2001); believed they could “exercise objections to that.” The only persister who blamed
some measure of control over their own functioning someone else was Peyton, who blamed the judge,
and over environmental events [moving forward]” but even then, he referred more to the length of his
(Bandura, 2001: 10); and were optimistic about the sentence than to denying responsibility for the
future, believing they could “produce desired results crime: “The judge simply forgot about the de-
and forestall detrimental ones by their actions” (Ban- tails. . . . I’m not saying I’m completely innocent. I
dura, 2001: 10). In Table 2, we illustrate these differ- mean, I hit him [the victim].” In contrast, those who
ences based on our grouping of cases (i.e., individu- dropped out of the program showed a clear ten-
als) with respect to whether they successfully dency to blame others for their current situations.
completed the program or dropped out. As we detail We found that those who failed to “own up” to their
in the following subsections, we found that unlike crimes and who blamed external parties appeared
Prisoners’ Personal Agency Mind-Set
Participants who remained Level Participants who dropped Level

Paul Ha Donald La
Internalization of blame example: [In response to the question “Do H Internalization of blame example: “I am here because of arson, L
you think it is right that you are in jail?”] “I admit that I hurt serious arson, attempted fraud. And now comes the catch, I
someone—that is a fact, and I deserve punishment for this. . . . am sitting here for a crime that I did not commit. You
Honestly, clearly, I do not deny that I made a mistake. I have can believe me now; I’m telling the truth. . . . It’s the
hurt someone, and it is also fair that I will be punished.” institution.”
Optimism example: “[Regarding my life situation] I simply try to H Optimism example: “. . . In the end, I can’t spread hope. . . . The L
make the best of it, no matter where I am or what might follow. official with the key set walks around eight hours every day,
Now, I’m here [in jail]. I never planned to be here, but I must with keys banging ‘clack, clack,’ and you hear that day in and day
also accept that.” out. [I’ll be mad] when I come out. . . . That’s real psychic terror.”
Perception of control example: “[After prison] I know I can H Perception of control example: “I am unsure if I can be L
continue my life as I want. . . . I know I can achieve everything profitable in this country. When I look at corruption in this
I want to achieve.” country, particularly in the railways, other companies, men in
politics, or people who deal with taxpayers’ money,
something is wrong in here.”
Peter Ha David La
Internalization of blame example: “I am not innocent. Whether it H Internalization of blame example: “Had my family-life situation L
is okay to this extent? Well, from a legal point of view, it seems been different, then I would definitely not be here. My life
to be correct. Of course, I got into fights. There are no objections would have developed differently because I felt very, very
to that.” used [by my stepfather]. I have worked a lot for my stepfather,
and money was promised to me accordingly but was never
paid. It was only said, ‘So, you have this and this sum
available,’ which was too little.”
Optimism example: “I am convinced that I would have ended up H Optimism example: “I see things realistically. . . . Indeed, I M-L
in jail sooner or later. There was hope things would improve, would not like to be here again. This is clear, but if I now say
and I continued as long as things worked out. But I knew that I will never again consume [drugs] then I’m lying to myself.”
at some point I had to go to jail anyway because of this [drugs
and violence].”
Perception of control example: “When I point out to a future H Perception of control example: “[My family experience] has L
employer that I have used my time in jail productively and affected my relationship with money as well as other things. I
have additional qualifications, then this is will be positive. This cannot deal with money at all. As soon as I have money in
is better than if someone asks ‘What did you do in prison,’ and I my hand, it is gone. No matter whether it’s 10 euros or 1,000, I
say ‘Nothing.’ I have tried everything here. . . . I was waste them just as fast.”
responsible for 12 people as a foreman in the kitchen. I made
this program here. I can at least say, ‘Listen, I was not just
sitting around.’”
Peyton Ma Derek La
Internalization of blame example: [In response to the question “Is M Internalization of blame example: “My daughter is sitting with L
your imprisonment right?”] “Definitely not. But as I said, the judge her mom before the computer and trying to deceive and trick
had a different opinion. . . . [My ruling] was due to procedural daddy. You’d have to be blind or stupid not to pay attention. .
errors, not the offence itself. . . . The judge simply forgot about the . . You give everything [for the family], and they get you
details. . . . I’m not saying I’m completely innocent. I mean, I hit down. Why? The question is why. This is in my notes. The
him [the victim].” whole world should learn about it.”
Optimism example: “I found [my sentence] a little bit excessive M Optimism example: “My entire finances are broken. . . . But I L
because before that I never even had a ticket and then 5 years must now wait and see what comes because I have to fight
in prison? In the end, the victim only had a black eye and two with my wife [in court]. I have to pay attorney’s fees, yet I
loosened incisor teeth allegedly on the injury side. . . . But now, have nothing.
you cannot change much about it. You simply have to take it
and make the best out of it.”
Perception of control example: “I already did it in the past [picked H Perception of control example: “My money, for which I have L
myself up after a tragedy], and I will do the same again. Last worked with both my hands and mind, is now in the pockets
time . . . I had a car accident. At that time, I felt like today. But I of my wife and my daughter. They are making plans to trick
worked my way up again and I will make it again. I am not daddy. . . They [those responsible] are in very important
worried about that. It is a little hard, but oh well.” government positions. . . . It is not a democracy if they use me, my
own people, mother and daughter [to get at my money].”
(table continues)
Participants who remained Level Participants who dropped Level

Philip H Daniel M-La
Internalization of blame example: “[In the past] I was imprisoned H Internalization of blame example: [In response to “Are you M
for the same thing, always the same thing [drugs]. If I wouldn’t rightly in jail?”]: “One could argue either way. My sentence
have been imprisoned now, I would have continued [along the could have been a bit less; I don’t know. It probably could
same path] . . . so perhaps now I’m going in the right have been less, but now, I am simply satisfied it was not
direction.” longer than it already is.”
Optimism example: “I can now picture many things nicely. For H Optimism example: “The first 3 months in prison were M-L
example, now I try to get the positive out of many negative especially hard because you don’t exactly know how things
things because otherwise, I can be pulled down . . . I’m work. You hear thousands of stories . . .This time [in prison]
someone who always looks for the positive and what is going has been very difficult, and I am now resigned to my
well.” situation.”
Perception of control example: [I am taking the entrepreneurship M Perception of control example: “[Finding a job is difficult] L
class] because otherwise, I guess my chances are pretty bad because I lack a high school degree. And secondly, if I had it,
because with criminal records, it is just difficult, and I have no I would have to start again from scratch and would again
learned profession that I could securely work in.” begin at the bottom, where I would be paid very little money.”
Perry Ha Darren La
Internalization of blame example: “I deserve to be here, although H Internalization of blame example: “My career was ruined thanks L
the length of the sentence is too high in my opinion. . . . I am to the employment laws of this country. I had contracted with
here because I violated the drug law and dealt drugs. . . . I am the unemployment office. They said I had to either work
not here wrongly.” under their contracts, or they would block me [and they did].”
Optimism example: “I have always been a positive guy—in a H Optimism example: “I don’t want any contact with anyone here. L
good mood. This has not changed [due to prison]. . . . Although Most, probably 80% of those who are here behave out there
my sentence is 5 years 9 months, I am in a good mood every like in here and will be back to prison again soon.”
day. . . . For me, the future is looking quite positive. . . . I have
had the opportunity to get some education here and will come
out better than I came in.”
Perception of control example: “I believe I can have a secure H Perception of control example: “So just this institution here, this L
salary, which will also not be low. A good, secure salary first of execution, or what’s called rehabilitation, should actually
all. And I can train myself also. I can get an education and can mean execution. Here we are only numbers. They [the system]
perhaps become self-employed.” want us to work and stay here as long as possible.”
Parker Ha
Internalization of blame example: “I am in prison because I acted H
irresponsibly. . . . I myself caused the stress in the family
[which led to] violence that unfortunately occurred in the family
Optimism example: “Even if I must serve the sentence, I want to H
restart life, and every possible [thing] here keeps me alive and
ultimately enables me [to move] forward.”
Perception of control example: “I’ll stick to what I intend [my H
goals]. I was a bit hindered. I will say, I’ve been down. . . . But
now, I must get back on my feet.”
Patrick Ha
Internalization of blame example: “For years, I have taken drugs. I H
was living on the edge. I did my work like normal, but I
stupidly got into the drug scene and [sold drugs].”
Optimism example: “[Coming out of prison] will of course be H
difficult, but I always think positively and life goes on anyway.
I have never let my head hang, and I’ve had hard times. . .”
Perception of control example: “I have 3 years and 3 months to the H
end [of my sentence]. I wanted to get an education here [so I
can move forward after prison].”

Note. H, M, L ⫽ high, medium, low, respectively.

Overall level of personal agency mind-set.
600 Academy of Management Learning & Education December

to lack the personal agency mind-set necessary to cution,” believing his future is out of his hands
persist in the program and otherwise “move for- because “They [the system] want us to work and
ward.” For example, the dropouts showed a strong stay here as long as possible.”
tendency to deny the crime altogether. Donald ex- Last, persisters were low in pessimism and were
plained, “I am sitting here for a crime I did not largely optimistic about their future despite cur-
commit.” Donald’s opinion was confirmed by one rent imprisonment. Indeed, the optimism dis-
instructor who explained that Donald “is heavily played was particularly remarkable for Patrick
affected by the belief that he has had to suffer given his history and experiences: “I have never let
injustice.” Moreover, dropouts tended to blame oth- my head hang, and I’ve had hard times. I grew up
ers, including family members and the govern- in fact since I was 12 without parents. I have gone
ment, for their current imprisonment. For example, through all criminal matters. My best friends have
Derek complained, “You give everything [for the died of heroin, and the people are waning. People
family], and they get you down. Why? The question were shot dead [yet I remain positive].” One in-
is why. This is in my notes. The whole world should structor described Patrick as a “down-to-earth
learn about it.” David also accused his family: “My dreamer in a positive sense” with a high motiva-
life would have developed differently because I tion to develop something on his own—“somehow
felt very, very used [by my stepfather].” like an artist”—and as having a “very positive
Second, persisters showed a strong belief in be- attitude.” Similarly, an instructor described Parker
ing able to control their postprison lives. For ex- as an “ambitious” and “very positive person” who
ample, referring to his occupational goals, Paul tries to “use his competencies in logistics and to do
commented, “I know I can achieve everything I so on a large scale,” and Peter was described as
want to achieve [after imprisonment].” Similarly, “sunshine; you look at him and feel happy.” In
Perry spoke positively and appeared to be self- sharp contrast, dropouts displayed considerable
assured of options in his future occupational ca- pessimism. Daniel noted, “This time [in prison] has
reer: “I can train myself also. I can get an educa- been very difficult, and I am now resigned to my
tion and can perhaps become self-employed.” situation,” and Donald remarked, “We’ll see how
Instructors described Perry as “very self- things go; in the end, I can’t spread hope.” David,
confident.” In his assessment of prison life, Peter who was convicted for dealing drugs, admitted,
emphasized the benefits of work opportunities for “Indeed, I would not like to be here again. This is
his future career: “When I point out to a future clear, but if I now say I will never again consume
employer that I have used my time in jail produc- [drugs] then I’m lying to myself.” Derek’s pessi-
tively and have additional qualifications, then this mism became repeatedly manifest in his emphasis
will be positive.” Referring to other difficult times on his devastated financial situation: “But I must
in his life, Peyton stated, “But I worked my way up now wait and see what comes because I have to
again and I will make it again. I am not worried fight with my wife [in court]. I have to pay attor-
about that. It is a little hard, but oh well.” In con- ney’s fees, yet I have nothing.” Based on the evi-
trast, dropouts perceived a near total lack of con- dence outlined above, we propose the following:
trol over their future. For example, Derek believed Proposition 1: In entrepreneurship educational pro-
that his life is in the hands of authorities, particu- grams in prison, the likelihood that
larly the government: “They [those responsible] are inmates successfully persist with the
in very important government positions. . . . It is not program increases with inmates (a)
a democracy if they use me, my own people, taking responsibility for their impris-
mother and daughter [to get at my money].” Indeed, onment, (b) believing they have con-
according to one course instructor, a psychological trol of their postprison life course,
report confirmed that Derek had a perfectionist and (c) maintaining optimism about
picture of family and life in general, which led to the attractiveness of their post-
continuous failure to live up to his own expecta- prison life.
tions. Similarly, Donald was certain he would fall
back into his old ways, explaining, “I cannot deal
Personal Agency, Recognizing a Potential
with money at all [part of the reason he is in
Opportunity, and Program Persistence
prison]. As soon as I have money in my hand, it is
gone.” Finally, Darren went so far as to describe Although persisters and dropouts differed in their
the rehabilitation efforts in the prison as an “exe- personal agency, we also found evidence for why
2014 Patzelt, Williams, and Shepherd 601

these differences matter—at least in terms of persist- efforts was the fact that Perry believed he was the
ing with the program. As detailed below, we found one to blame for past developments in his life: “I
that personal agency provided the basis for recog- definitely think about what I did wrong and at what
nizing a potential opportunity, and this recognition points in time I made the wrong decisions. . . . In
encouraged continued participation in the program. hindsight, prison has been a good thing [to stop
Indeed, we found evidence of two mechanisms by bad behavior and move on]. . . . You make mistakes
which personal agency provided the basis for rec- once and learn.” While reflecting on past mistakes,
ognizing a potential opportunity—personal agency Perry discovered future opportunities. He devel-
helped the participants both make sense of their oped an idea to implement in dental offices, re-
past and generate a future orientation. membering that “There is a great need for [his
product]. . . . Dentists are lazy people . . . [and they
do not plan for] excessive demands. I have been
Making Sense of the Past and Recognizing a
pushed to the idea more or less [by those helping
Potential Opportunity
him reflect on the past in the class] . . . and that [the
The existing literature acknowledges that individ- idea] has only in the last few weeks become clear.”
uals can learn from their past mistakes and fail- Consistently, one instructor described Perry as be-
ures because such experiences indicate that basic ing “very open and grateful for feedback” and as
assumptions and knowledge structures were inad- “readily accepting advice.” Similarly, Patrick ex-
equate, which can motivate sense-making activi- plained that accepting responsibility for and mak-
ties (Morrison, 2002; Shepherd, 2003). That is, indi- ing sense of the past led to a vast influx of oppor-
viduals reflect on and cognitively process their tunity ideas. He explained, “I still think about a lot
past decisions and experiences and work to con- of things [from the past] and how to use time here
struct a plausible account for the failure and in a good way.” As a result, Patrick explained,
thereby learn for the future (Shepherd, Patzelt, & “Instead of turning on the TV, I often ponder, and
Wolfe, 2011; Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005). For thousands of ideas come. . . . There were problems
inmates, such sense-making activities imply that [in my past] that I was not aware of. I am aware of
they think about and understand how past deci- them now. . . [and] suddenly inspiration is coming
sions and experiences in their life history led to to my mind.”
their current situation and what they have to Second, believing in the ability to control one’s
change in life to avoid crime in the future. This future life constituted a sense-making trigger,
understanding is stored as “generic, abstracted which enabled planning for the future by redefin-
knowledge structures which also contain specific ing problems as opportunities. For example, when
instances” (Fiske & Linville, 1980: 552; see also asked how imprisonment impacted his life, Peter
Fiske & Taylor, 1984). In Table 3, we compare in- commented, “[Being in prison] stimulates thinking
mates who persisted with the entrepreneurship a lot. . . . Now I am in jail; then you think even more
program with those who dropped out, which re- about it. I am getting older, have more responsibil-
vealed considerable differences in their level of ity, the children get older. Then you start to think
sense-making. As we detail below, our analysis about the question whether it could go on like
revealed that differences in sense-making can be this.” These reflections and sense-making efforts
explained by prisoners’ beliefs about personal about Peter’s past life were accompanied by a be-
agency such that stronger personal agency beliefs lief that he would be able to do things differently in
enabled their sense-making of past life histories. the future to comply with the responsibility his life
Moreover, higher levels of sense-making facili- and family situation demand: “[I see prison as an
tated the recognition of a potential opportunity. opportunity] to come down, to reset. I ask myself,
First, internalizing blame was an important trig- ‘Ok, what happened in the last few years? What
ger for sense-making and learning; reflecting on needs to be changed?’” As Peter reflected on what
what went wrong in the past led individuals to he could do in his future, he had “many ideas come
identify entrepreneurial opportunities that could to mind” in terms of the opportunity itself: “people
enable a different future. For example, when asked I could work with . . . marketing plans” and even
about the impact of imprisonment on his life, Perry pricing strategies. Where Peter had previously
stated that while in prison, he started to better seen obstacles, he now saw “endless opportunity.”
understand how his life history had led to his cur- Similarly, Perry explained finding opportunities
rent situation. Important for these sense-making this way: “Oh, I failed several times in my life, and
Prisoners’ Personal Agency Mind-Set: Making Sense of Past and Opportunity Recognition
Participants who remained Level Participants who dropped Level

Paul: “I do not view myself as one who crashed and took a certain wrong way. I M Donald: “Above all, the big problem is simply that because I L
made a mistake just like anyone else. And for this, I have been punished do not admit my fault because the ‘lovely institution’ would
quite hard. That’s it. I admit I hurt someone. That is a fact. And I deserve like that, or they want prisoners who can be pushed into a
punishment for this, but not 5 years. . . . I already [am developing plans] how therapy. Because the institution simply has the final
to continue my life and so on. I’ll simply go my own way.” judgment, they treat me as if I am really guilty [which I am
not]. . . . To succeed, I must leave the country.”
Peter: “[Being in prison] stimulates thinking a lot. . . . Now, I am in jail; then you H David: “I guess what I did [doing drugs] is against the law, but L
think even more about [life]. . . . Then you start to think about the question I actually see myself as a good person. I’ve never really
whether it could go on like this. . . . I would say it is not that bad that I am in done something bad; it’s simply against the system. I simply
prison. . . . [I see prison as an opportunity] to come down, to reset. I ask myself like to consume drugs. I simply like to party. I do not want a
‘Ok, what happened the last few years? What needs to be changed?’ Just to bad thing for anyone. . . . It’s pretty much just about the fun
have time to reflect on what happened the last few years [is important].” factor. . . . I doubt I’ll stop drugs even with therapy. I will be
very susceptible when I get out of prison.”
Peyton: “I am not saying that I am completely innocent. I mean, I hit him. . . . L-M Derek: “When I came to this country, I had a lot of money. L
This is the only thing that I am annoyed with. Because they always assumed When my wife’s brother came to me and brought his
that I had no reason [for hitting the man]. Who does something like that? This acquaintances, relatives, I didn’t know him at all. . . . My
is nonsense. No one hits another one for no reason. . . . [But I have learned my wife’s brother made me broke. . . . I try to forget the fact that
lesson] and I will never be in this situation again. Such a situation is not my wife and daughter have won [in financial
possible; It will not happen again.” disagreements]. . . . I sent my wife to private schools. I paid
and worked like a maniac without vacation even on
Saturdays and Sundays.”
Philip: “[While in prison] I’ve learned to appreciate things more, especially the H Daniel: “[Had I not gone to jail] I would probably still be H
little things. I now notice things I didn’t think about before. I think, ‘I cannot working as a waiter and would not have had so many
do what I would be doing out there.’ . . . I can say maybe yes; maybe it was thoughts about my future. So this has been a real wakeup
not so bad that I’ve been imprisoned at this time. . . . It’s my fault [I’m call. . . . I was heavily sentenced because of things I did
here]. . . . Somehow, I did not internalize what my parents were saying when way back as a kid. . . . I stole bikes, sprayed things with
they said, ‘Hey, you have to learn!’ until now.” cans, sprayed cars with a fire extinguisher, you know,
stupid young kid things. . . . A lot went wrong that evening.”
Perry: “I definitely think about what I did wrong and at what points in time I H Darren: “I am here because I supposedly sold drugs. . . . I feel L
made the wrong decisions. In my case, they started early. I believe that if in bullied by this country. The mere fact that I am here I
my youth, I had made different decisions, it [my life] would have probably consider to be harassment [by the state]. Why I’m here is a
been very different. But in the end, you cannot change the decision anymore; I joke, meaning how the entire process played out. Just
have to live with it. . . . In hindsight, prison has been a good thing [to stop because someone says something in court, you can be
bad behavior and move on]. . . . You make mistakes once and learn. I am the sentenced without any evidence? This is critically
type of person who has to fall on his face before learning something.” wrong. . . . [If not for the state] I’m a person with at least
three possible options. . . . I could start them all because I
have a good reputation.”
Parker: “[In prison] I’m able to fill my time in a better way [by reflecting]. I H
always had too little time because I planned to do too many things. Here, I’ve
had the possibility to deal with things that help me in my future life. [In
prison I] collect information, hear from the outside . . . to evolve . . . I think
that I’ll be reasonably prepared [for my future] because of the fact that there
is more time to think about it [past mistakes and future opportunities] in
prison. . . . [My view is] to simply use the time in prison to make progress and
to shape my future . . .”
Patrick: “In prison I’ve reflected on what it means to not be free. Definitely. H
Health and freedom are the highest of all things. Definitely. And that’s no
matter how much money has been dealt with out there or anything. All of this
cannot replace freedom and health. . . . It’s good I came here. Otherwise, my
problem would not have come to an end. I see it as a little therapy. . . .
Instead of turning on the TV, I often ponder, and thousands of ideas come
about [for future opportunities and ways to improve].”
2014 Patzelt, Williams, and Shepherd 603

I always picked myself up again. Well, I am in jail facilitate the opportunity recogni-
(laughs). . . . [However] I go through the world with tion process through greater sense-
[my] eyes open, for example, to identify problems making of the past.
to make into business ideas.” Perry accomplished
the transformation of problems to potential oppor-
Future Orientation and Recognizing a
tunities in his business model, which addressed
Potential Opportunity
problems he saw in his preprison work environ-
ment. For Perry, sense-making is a key element of Existing research suggests that past failures can
his idea-generation approach. trigger the motivation to perform better in the fu-
Last, optimism about the future appeared to ture (McCrea, 2008). Central to such a motivation is
“soften” the emotional frustration of the past and that individuals develop future-oriented goals and
opened the inmates’ minds about possibilities, en- a belief that they can achieve these goals (Ban-
abling them to explore entrepreneurial opportuni- dura, 2001; Locke & Latham, 1990). That imprison-
ties. For example, Parker explained, “[In prison] I’m ment can substantially decrease individuals’ fu-
able to fill my time in a better way [by reflecting]. ture motivations is recognized; however, there is
I always had too little time [before prison] because also variance in this effect (Cooper & Berwick,
I planned to do too many things. . . . [My view is] to 2001; Marcus, Hamlin, & Lyons, 2001). When as-
simply use the time in prison to make progress and sessing similarities and differences between
to shape my future in a way that I can make it the persisters and dropouts, our data reveal that per-
way I would like to no matter where I am and sonal agency—taking responsibility for one’s im-
where I live.” He went on to explain, “[I now prisonment, believing that one has control of
have] various points of view [of] what could be one’s future life course, and optimism about the
done better . . . [and how] to act differently. [This future—influences prisoners’ general orientation
reflection] takes me forward [in developing fu- toward the future—their motivation to move for-
ture ideas], and causes me to have an entirely ward, plan for the future, and anticipate a success-
different view. . . . I’ve developed a business ful life beyond their imprisonment. In Table 4 we
plan, and it is fun, real fun even in these circum- compare inmates who persisted with the entrepre-
stances. . . . All these different things, these per- neurship program with those who dropped out,
spectives, this whole issue we discuss enables us which revealed considerable differences in their
to sharpen our view even about situations that general orientation toward the future. As we detail
come up in life.” In making sense of the past, below, our analysis revealed that differences in
Parker appreciated future opportunities, seeing general orientation toward the future can be ex-
them as a “second chance” through which he could plained by inmates’ beliefs about personal
“reboot.” In one instructor’s opinion, “all of his agency, such that stronger beliefs of personal
[Parker’s] senses are ready for reception. . . . He is agency generated a future orientation. Moreover,
very ambitious.” This optimism and ambitiousness future orientation facilitated the opportunity recog-
fueled the desire (and ability) to learn: to obtain new nition process, as we detail below.
perspectives by having an open mind to new ideas, First, persisting inmates internalized blame for
which enabled the recognition of a potential oppor- their situation, and viewed the potential entrepre-
tunity and persistence in the program; to identify neurial opportunity as not only an escape from
opportunities he could develop; and to ultimately prison life but a real chance to enact their hopes
persist in the program. Similarly, Parker explained for the future; therefore bringing the hope of a
that sense-making during the program changed his better future into their otherwise deflated life situ-
view of the world and different points of view, en- ation. Persistence in the program was helpful to-
abling further opportunity recognition. Based on the ward achieving this goal. For example, when
above discussion, we offer the following: asked about his future plans, Paul replied: “I must
Proposition 2: In entrepreneurship educational pro- accept that I’m here [as my own doing]. . . . These
grams in prison, inmates (a) taking are public debts I have to pay. . . . Then I will go
responsibility for their imprison- out . . . to establish my association.” Paul’s focus on
ment, (b) believing they have control the future was “liberating” and motivated him to
of their postprison life course, and (c) spend his time searching for and developing his
maintaining optimism about the at- entrepreneurial idea. He explained, “There is
tractiveness of their postprison life more time left [for me in prison], and [I] will use
Prisoners’ Personal Agency Mind-Set: Orientation Toward Future and Opportunity Recognition
Participants who remained Level Participants who dropped Level

Paul: “I already have a specified profession and a specific goal that I want to H Donald: “All means of obtaining income from where I worked L
achieve [after prison]. This is already set. It is different for different people, before no longer exist. I no longer have customer references;
and for me, this is simply the case. Somehow, this suddenly happened [my all my papers, my whole life is affected, as I said. . . . I don’t
imprisonment]; this is a fate. I arrived here, but nevertheless, I still see my think my experience will help me, so who knows if I’ll be
objective in front of me. . . . I see the future relaxed. . . . I have nothing to lose. successful. I can’t foresee that happening. As I have said, I
I have no wife and child. I’m like a soldier. . . . I must accept that I’m here [as will have to see if anything is feasible in this country. . . . As
my own doing]. . . . These are public debts I have to pay. . . . Then I will go I said, when I look at our state in the end, looking forward
out . . . to establish my association.” 30 years, our state could go down the drain overnight.”
Peter: “What options are there for me? Many! I tell myself ‘Hey, you’re not so old. H David: “I don’t work here in prison. . . . [As for future L
You can do it again, and you have a profession, yes.’ Fortunately, I have employment I fear] I am not the most persistent person, and
vocational training. I can always work on the side. . . . I had many problems I tend to be influenced by other things and then not take
as well as the drugs, and I knew I had to go to prison . . . [But in looking things as seriously as they actually are. . . . As for what I’ll
forward] I know I have far too much potential to have a bad job.” do in the future? Perhaps I would work at a bar owned by a
friend of mine?”
Peyton: “If I am able to realize it [my idea] straight away, I will start the project H Derek: [In response to the question “What do you expect upon L
immediately. It could be that there are a few people who want to join the your release?”] “Nothing. I have no family; family no longer
project . . . In a pinch, I will swallow the bitter pill and work in any profession exists. . . . I will accept social assistance if I can find it.
for the next couple of years. Then I’ll to put money aside [to achieve my Otherwise, I will sleep under a bridge. I have never been in
dreams]. And I have to say honestly that I then do not care about the job I such a situation in my life—being dependent on outside
have to do as long as money is right; it does not need to be fun for me. help. On the contrary, if anyone needed help, I was the first
Because I know, when I have the money, then I’ll do what I want to do, and one there with money, with power, ideas . . . everything!”
then it will work.”
Philip: “I started a 3-year high school program, but I was kicked out because of H Daniel: “Still today I cannot recall how the fight escalated [to L
missing too many days of school. Now, in hindsight, I would have done it a lot the extent that I got sent to prison]. I’ll probably never be
differently. . . . I see this [entrepreneurship training] as a chance to try able to analyze or understand that [as it’s out of my hands].
something new. . . . [Moving forward] I want to do something interesting, not When I get out, I just want to get back into everyday life. In
anything meaningless like on the assembly line. I want to do something my job as a waiter, I was fine. . . . I could do what I wanted
where I am challenged a little, where I can involve myself. . . . I have and in my spare time do the things I wanted every weekend.
experience selling, just the wrong things [drugs]. . . . I have hope for I would like to do that again. . . . So I have no high
something positive in the future.” expectations.”
Perry: “A guy here in prison described it best: ‘We’re at rock bottom and can H Darren: [In response to the question “Do you feel you’ll have M
only go up.’ I’m in prison. What’s the worst thing that could happen [outside job opportunities after the program?”] No, because society is
prison after serving]? . . . I have a positive attitude about life and also the simply not ready to accept criminals. If they hear ‘prison,’
future. . . . The ways and means are there for me to shape the future. That it then they say I can do nothing. This is the same as if you
simply is not negative. The positive is in the future, and I’ll find appropriate got a truck driver’s license in the army. Then you will also
ways [to realize my dreams].” not get a truck driver job. . . . No, I am confident for nothing.”
Parker: “I have still a bit of time here [in prison], in which I hope to prove that I H
can bring life in the right direction. . . . There is no chance I’ll be back in
prison. . . . Now, I have a second chance in life, and I must use it. . . . If I avoid
difficulties in the mind, I have no obstacles. . . . It is important for me and my
children. If I can financially support them I will be happy.”
Patrick: “I’m not the guy who says, ‘I will now live on unemployment help and H
don’t want to work.’ No, on the contrary, I work hard and give work tips to my
friends and others. I always did, be it in hard drugs, at work, or otherwise. I’ll
give them advice, which I think stands for a positive future.”
2014 Patzelt, Williams, and Shepherd 605

it as an opportunity to make considerations for my honestly, this [working on my idea] is great. It’s
association. . . . I still see my objective in front of really great [in helping with that motivation].”
me. When I am released, I will follow that.” Paul Based on the above, we offer the following:
was able to identify, develop, and begin enacting Proposition 3: In entrepreneurship educational pro-
his future plans because he had accepted that grams in prison, inmates (a) taking
imprisonment would be part of his life and was responsibility for their imprison-
oriented toward working toward a better future. ment, (b) believing they have control
Second, persisters felt they could have control of of their postprison life course, and (c)
their lives after prison, which in turn oriented them maintaining optimism about the at-
toward doing all they could to utilize the time in tractiveness of their postprison life
prison as “an opportunity” to prepare for that fu- facilitate the opportunity recogni-
ture, thereby removing fear and anxiety. As a re- tion process through the develop-
sult, persisters identified and worked on entrepre- ment of a general orientation to-
neurial ideas, which was their way of “living in the ward the future.
future now.” For example, Philip explained, “I am
not that afraid anymore about [the future]. . . . I
Recognizing a Potential Opportunity and
view the future quite positively.” In an interview
Program Persistence
with Philip’s sister, she recognized his motivation
to move forward and how that drove him to enact Research suggests that intentions—or proactive
his entrepreneurial idea. She explained, “He has commitments—for bringing about a future event
matured. . . . He realizes that something [the busi- can influence eventual action but are not neces-
ness idea] is taking shape. He found something sarily indicative of actual actions (Bandura, 2001).
which means something to him, and he believes in This idea is demonstrated in our data, as all par-
it.” In a similar vein, Philip’s mother emphasized ticipants expressed interest in completing the pro-
that “it is important for him that he can work on gram to better their future but only some actually
something he is passionate about. He now has did. To turn future goals into reality, present-
something [the potential business opportunity] to directed actions are needed to guide, motivate,
realize in practice. . . . He realized that he has and keep the individual moving forward (Bandura,
something to develop and to realize, and he loves 2001; Bratman, 1999) as “realization of forward look-
working on it. . . . He even decided not to apply for ing plans requires more than an intentional state
early prison release in order to obtain additional because it is not causally sufficient by itself” (Ban-
qualification as a cook [which he needs to imple- dura, 2001: 7). Some prison programs emphasize
ment the business idea].” present-directed actions, including skills training,
Last, persisters were optimistic, which fueled therapy, and other programs, to attempt to activate
their motivation to make something of themselves good intentions for future change (Cooper & Ber-
by making personal sacrifices to move a potential wick, 2001; Marcus et al., 2001). When assessing
entrepreneurial opportunity forward, demonstrat- similarities and differences over the period of the
ing a strong motivation to “make things work no educational program, we found that forming an
matter the cost” (within the bounds of the law). For entrepreneurial opportunity belief played a critical
example, Peter explained, “I will give up a lot of role in program persistence. Namely, the potential
money; I will give up fun, [and] normal living. . . . I opportunity enabled persistence in three ways: it
[will] have to speed up and fight a little bit [as I am (1) served as a vehicle for present-focused action,
confident for a better future].” This optimism and (2) provided a coping mechanism or escape from
willingness to sacrifice led to searching for and the hostile environment, and (3) returned inmates
developing the potential entrepreneurial opportu- to a sense of social and intellectual “normalcy.”
nity. Similarly, Peyton explained, “I think a lot Table 5 shows this comparison and also offers a
more about my future. . . . I now have a plan; I have brief description of the venture each individual
a target. I now have my own project, and I will developed.
invest all my energy [to make it successful]. . . . First, recognizing and developing a potential en-
There is no way I’ll do anything else. . . . You have trepreneurial opportunity provided inmates with a
to motivate yourself, and you have to fight for your- present-focused tool or vehicle to enact future
self, and you need to use your elbows from time to goals and intentions (e.g., completing the program,
time [in driving for a future]. . . . But I have to say, being ready to start a business upon release from
Recognizing a Potential Opportunity and Program Persistence
Exemplar quotations Exemplar quotations

Paul (Idea: Association for engineers coming from an African country) Perry (Idea: Specialized dental lab)
Vehicle for present-focused action: “It is good to have something concrete, to be able to Vehicle for present-focused action: [The entrepreneurial opportunity provided a] way and
speak about your future at least two times a week, and you can actually write about means to shape my future. This is the big positive [from the program]. . . . The time
your dreams. This was important [to my staying in the program].” [spent working on the idea] was definitely worth the sacrifice.”
Coping mechanism: “For me, it is very positive [to come to the class and work on my Coping mechanism: “Prison life clings to you. . . . [Working on my idea] is the best way
idea]. It is an escape [which motivates me to continue] where I have a normal to make the most of my experience . . . for a better future.”
conversation with the people here . . . unlike regular prison life.” Return to normalcy: “[In attending the program, prison life is] much better. . . . Working
Return to normalcy: “It is a nice feeling to be accepted as a human being, to have with others who have endless ambition. They talk about ideas; they really get into it.
normal dialogue. . . . We talk about the business plan, our projects, etc. . . . It was an I think it is great [and motivates me to keep with the program].”
intellectual challenge as well, but also just a sense of being normal.”
Peter (Idea: Consulting firm focused on health, nutrition, and fitness) Parker (Idea: Reverse auction Internet platform)
Vehicle for present-focused action: “Many things are too far in the future [as I have time Vehicle for present-focused action: “I like the course. It enables you to develop your
on my prison term] . . . but the ‘best part’ [of the entrepreneurial program] is learning ideas [now to be used in the future]. . . . [Because of this] I know I can make it
how to use the class in building my idea [something I can do now].” [complete the course and be successful]. I only have to want it. . . . Now I know how I
Coping mechanism: “[When in the course] The atmosphere is always good. . . . can actually implement [my idea] without falling into traps.”
Friendships have really deepened. . . . [Working on my idea] stimulates a lot of Coping mechanism: “[Thanks to the program] I can make progress to shape my future in
thinking . . . [and allows me] to escape.” a way that I can make it the way I would like to realize it, no matter where I am and
Return to normalcy: “It is very motivating to have other [more normal] thoughts [outside where I live.”
the prison experience]. . . . Prison [usually] is only about crime all the time.” Return to normalcy: “[In discussing my ideas] I get to talk with experienced people,
which is a big advantage. . . . It helps me feel like I’m not marooned from reality.”
Peyton (Idea: Art Café) Patrick (Idea: Wallpaper taping tool)
Vehicle for present-focused action: “I need to experience success now [in planning for Vehicle for present-focused action: “[In working on my idea] It was very difficult; I had to
the future.] Here [in prison], you rarely get such an opportunity. . . . In working on the develop myself quite a bit. . . . I wrote a business plan and surprised everyone,
business plan, I come out of this environment [and see tangible results for the including myself! . . . This will definitely help me later in life.”
future].” Coping mechanism: “[Working on my idea] was simply fun, there were hardly any
Coping mechanism: “In prison, you cannot trust most people. . . . [However, in working negative things about it [which was quite a contrast to normal prison life] . . . where I
on my ideas] I have fun interactions [with others], something that is refreshing.” sit around bored.”
Return to normalcy: “I’ve had some really strong feelings that I will become stupid here. Return to normalcy: “[Working on my idea] allowed me to feel accepted. This was really
There are no challenges mentally. . . . [However, now after working on my idea] My good [and motivated me to stick with it].”
intelligence is improving again [becoming normal].”
Philip (Idea: Meal delivery service for the elderly)
Vehicle for present-focused action: “The best part about the class is I am building a
business idea now [to enhance my future].”
Coping mechanism: “[By escaping to work in my idea] You have very different thoughts
and deal with other things [related to my idea].”
Return to normalcy: “I am satisfied with the smallest, normal stuff [working on my idea].
I want to lead a normal life [which I can do through the program].”
2014 Patzelt, Williams, and Shepherd 607

prison, etc.), which led to program persistence. For opportunity recognition process and developing a
persisting inmates, their idea functioned as some- concept for the cafe, he commented, “Now, it [my
thing they could control, develop, and alter. Gain- intellect] is slowly returning. . . . You notice the
ing additional support and training from the pro- brain working again. . . . It finally has a mental
gram then became important in this ongoing challenge again [through the program].” Based on
development. For example, Philip explained that the above, we offer the following:
working on his idea to develop a meal delivery Proposition 4: In entrepreneurship educational pro-
service for the elderly would have a “good effect on grams in prison, recognizing oppor-
my future because now I think much more about tunities and subsequently develop-
my future . . . because I have my own project, and ing those opportunities encourages
I have invested all my energy into it. . . . [Because persistence in the education pro-
of this] I told myself ‘I’m going to pursue this course gram by (a) offering present-focused
until the end.’ ” actions for future goals, (b) provid-
Second, recognizing and developing a potential ing a coping mechanism or escape
entrepreneurial opportunity provided an important from prison life, and (c) encouraging
coping mechanism or escape from the hostile a sense of social and intellectual
prison environment—a desirable outcome that led normalcy.
to program persistence. For persisting inmates, Based on the reasoning above about how the
working on the entrepreneurial idea was desir- mechanisms of making sense of the past and hav-
able, and they looked forward to the break from ing a future orientation link the foundational mind-
prison life each week, encouraging ongoing pro- set to recognizing a potential opportunity and how
gram persistence. For example, Parker explained this recognition motivates persistence in an entre-
that attending the course and pursuing his idea of preneurship education program in prison, we offer
a reverse auction platform on the Internet “helped the following:
me forget that I was here [in prison]. . . . As long as Proposition 5: In entrepreneurship educational pro-
I was attending the courses and working on my grams in prison, the relationship be-
idea, it was as if I was not locked up. . . . [It allowed tween inmates (a) taking responsi-
me] to beam myself away from prison with the bility for their imprisonment, (b)
idea. This has been very good, and therefore I believing they have control of their
did not want to stop working on my idea [in the postprison life course, and (c) main-
course].” taining optimism about the attrac-
Last, recognizing and developing a potential en- tiveness of their postprison life and
trepreneurial opportunity returned inmates to a persistence with the entrepreneur-
sense of social and intellectual normalcy, helping ship educational program is medi-
them “feel human again” (when working on the ated by recognizing a potential op-
idea), which led to program persistence. For exam- portunity. That is, (a), (b), and (c)
ple, Paul explained that prior to working on his facilitate the opportunity recogni-
idea of building an association for engineers com- tion process through both making
ing from an African country, all he talked about sense of the past and having a gen-
with fellow inmates was “probation, only judicial eral orientation toward the future,
stuff.” However, in working on developing a de- and recognizing a potential oppor-
tailed plan for founding the association, Paul be- tunity encourages persistence in the
gan to have “normal” interactions with people, a program.
benefit that drove him to persist. He explained, “It
is a nice feeling to be accepted as a human being,
to have normal dialogue. . . . We talk about the
business plan, our projects, and so on. It was an
intellectual challenge as well, but also just a sense
of being normal.” Similarly, Peyton, who planned From our data, we identified a specific personal
on opening an art cafe, explained that prison had agency mind-set of prisoners— one of (a) taking
begun to “diminish [his] intellectual level,” includ- responsibility for their imprisonment, (b) believing
ing his ability to “read and communicate in writ- they have control of their postprison life course,
ing.” However, in challenging himself through the and (c) maintaining optimism about the attractive-
608 Academy of Management Learning & Education December

ness of their postprison life—as an important pre- cause he is enthusiastic about it [becoming an
requisite to persist with and successfully complete entrepreneur].”
an entrepreneurship education program in prison. Second, over the time frame of the course, most
In addition, when assessing similarities and dif- persisters developed a more positive attitude to-
ferences over the period of the educational pro- ward their current situation and imprisonment.
gram for the seven inmates who completed it, we This more positive attitude became manifest in
found that those who persisted experienced a different ways. For example, for Peter, it was im-
change in their attitudes toward themselves (i.e., portant to be able to use the time served more
their entrepreneurial competence), their situation productively. At the beginning of the course, he
(i.e., imprisonment), and others (i.e., other inmates). described prison life as follows: “In here, all we do
This observation is consistent with studies finding is sports, sit in your cell, work—you are simply
that entrepreneurship educational programs do going gaga. And you have the feeling that time is
have the potential to impact participants’ attitudes absolutely not used; it is needlessly wasted.” After
toward entrepreneurship (e.g., Souitaris et al., 2007; the course, he emphasized the opportunity to es-
von Graevenitz et al., 2010), but it goes beyond cape this situation: “Here [in prison], it is all about
these studies in identifying an influence on atti- crime all the time. It is all about what you want to
tudes toward people’s current life situation and do after your release: holidays, hookers, doing
others in their social environment. This finding is drugs, and so on. [Through the program] you are
important from a practical perspective because a able to escape this. You have the feeling you are
basic change in attitudes is often an important taken seriously. You are not wasting your time
prerequisite for lowering the likelihood of recidi- here.” For some, the attitude change became man-
vism (Giordano et al., 2002; Kiriakidis, 2008). In Ta-
ifest in the mental challenge the program pro-
ble 6, we summarize evidence of the changes that
vided. For instance, Perry stated, “I am very ex-
took place among the seven inmates who persisted
cited about all the information I have received. If
in the program.
not [for this class], I would generally not be chal-
First, after completing the course, all persisters
lenged mentally [due to prison life], but now, I’m
perceived an increase in their entrepreneurial
challenged to extreme levels. I find that fantastic.”
competence—they had acquired new knowledge
Last, participation in the entrepreneurship edu-
about entrepreneurship and developed a belief in
cation program also led to a more positive attitude
their ability to start a firm. This competence was
toward others. While one persister (i.e., Perry) al-
strengthened at least in part because they had
begun creating their entrepreneurial venture as ready had a positive attitude toward other inmates
opposed to simply learning new skills. For exam- at the beginning of the course, the others had a
ple, in the initial interview at the start of the pro- more negative attitude at the beginning but
gram, Philip stated, “Concretely, I have no idea, so changed it based on the course experience. For
I’m doing this course anyway. . . . I guess I could [be example, at the time he entered the program, Paul
an entrepreneur], but I have no idea at all. . . . I stated, “Here [in prison], you are on your own, and
have no real abilities. I know how to use the Inter- you cannot talk about everything. . .” whereas after
net, but so do children nowadays.” This contrasts the program, he was enthusiastic about engaging
Philip’s reflection after the course: “Now, I defi- in conversations with the other participants. He
nitely know things that I previously did not know. referred to the course as “an island” where “you
Also, before this class, I never thought of becoming can talk to normal people, which otherwise is not
self-employed, which is what I want to do now. So the case here.” Even more dramatic is Peyton’s
this had initiated something.” One course instruc- change in his attitude toward other prisoners.
tor remarked that Philip “has developed very well When entering the program, he stated that “[p]eo-
[over the course]. . . . He is not at all the quiet ple here [in prison] are simply idiots.” After the
person anymore. At the beginning, he was very course, he described his relationship with other
quiet, and now he has a level of activity that is course participants as follows: “We share ideas [in
perfect.” Similarly, Philip’s sister commented, “My the evening outside class]. . . . Some [good criti-
impression is that he has changed in a very posi- cism] came from a fellow prisoner who told me
tive way. . . . The program certainly promoted his ‘You cannot do that [a phase of his business plan]
self-esteem.” Further, his mother stated that the alone,’ . . . which was true. . . . [As a class] we are
program had a “very positive effect [on Philip] be- welded to each other.”
Attitudes Before and After Entrepreneurship Program
Attitudes before Level Attitudes after Level

Paula Paul
Entrepreneurial competence: [In response to the question “Do you want to L Entrepreneurial competence: “I had the general idea. Now, I have the H
set up the company as your sole job?”]: No, first of all I have to gain possibility to think about things in a very detailed way. For example, it
some [entrepreneurial] knowledge, or else everything is useless. did not occur to me to prepare a business plan for association
Perhaps in the long run [but I’m not capable now].” members as an extra step.”
Imprisonment: “Since I am in prison, I have a view of the other side of L Imprisonment: “[In prison] You are just a number. . . . [However, in the M-H
this country. I somehow try to ignore this image. . . . But I never class] It is a nice feeling to be accepted as a human being, to have a
thought that this country could be like this.” normal dialogue.”
Attitude regarding others: “Here [in prison], you are on your own, and you L Attitude regarding others: “For me, it is very positive here as well [in the H
cannot talk about everything, and there are different backgrounds as course]. To be able to have a normal conversation with the people here
well, and so on.” on certain issues at least. It is like an island. That you can talk to
normal people, which otherwise is not the case.”
Petera Peter
Entrepreneurial competence: “[Prior to joining the program, I didn’t know] L Entrepreneurial competence: “I am better prepared in case I set up a H
how to start a business plan, how to correctly phrase an idea, how to business. . . . Now, I know how to start . . . to be able to communicate
convey an idea to someone else. . . . A lot of us have low education, to others what I want to do and to perhaps find someone who would
which is the case with me. . . . Many things [I can’t learn].” like to invest in me. . . . Above all, I noticed that I have far too much
potential to take a bad job [after prison].”
Imprisonment: “In here, all we do is sports, sit in your cell, work—you are L Imprisonment: “Here [in prison], it is all about crime all the time. It is all about H
simply going gaga. And you have the feeling that time is absolutely what you want to do after your release: holidays, hookers, doing drugs, and
not used; it is needlessly wasted. so on. [Through the program] you are able to escape this. You have the
feeling you are taken seriously. You are not wasting your time here.”
Attitude regarding others: Many people are unable to understand that L Attitude regarding others: “I realize now the more we start doing the H
there are people who will do something for us without benefiting from written work [business plans], the more exchange we have [with
it. That is simply incomprehensible to many. . . . Perhaps the people do others]. We share many suggestions. [For example] One might say,
not really understand and are skeptical [of the program] because no ’Look at this. How do you like it? Do you think there is something
one does anything for you for nothing here in prison.” missing?’ . . . There arose a kind of a friendship, more than would
usually be the case.”
Peytona Peyton
Entrepreneurial competence: “[I was an entrepreneur] for 8 weeks, and M Entrepreneurial competence: “The thing I like best about the course is now I H
then I was imprisoned [laughs]. I had a cocktail lounge. . . . [However] I know things I have to consider. I have to say honestly, after rethinking,
did not think of everything [in setting up my business], including I guess I definitely would have failed with several things sooner or
furnishings, calculating and writing off items for taxes. . . . My partner later because I simply did not think about them. . . . The way I
did this [including writing the business plan].” managed my business [before], I had no idea about anything at all. . . .
[With the knowledge I now have] I could start a business from scratch.
I would save a lot of money. I would save a lot of time.”
Imprisonment: “I have the feeling that I’ve become stupid here [in prison] L Imprisonment: [Since being in prison] I noticed it [prison] has slowly H
because there are no challenges mentally. You wake up in the morning diminished my intellectual level. . . . Now, it [my intellect] is slowly
and go do boring work. . . . You cannot trust most people. . . . You sit returning. . . . You notice the brain working again. . . . It finally has a
there and listen to prisoners’ stories. . . . When I can’t listen to that any mental challenge again [through the program].”
longer, what do I do? I sit in my cell.”
Attitude regarding others: “People here [in prison] are simply idiots L Attitude regarding others: “We share ideas [in the evening outside H
[laughs]. . . . They got punished for something and still feel great in class]. . . . Some [good criticism] came from a fellow prisoner who told
here and continue. At most, they are dreaming of what they could do me ‘You cannot do that [a phase of his business plan] alone,’ . . . which
wrong outside. . . . [Our interaction?]: hello, goodbye.” was true. . . . [As a class] we are welded to each other.
Philip Philip
Entrepreneurial competence: . . . I guess I could [be an entrepreneur], but I L Entrepreneurial competence: “Now, I definitely know things that I H
have no idea at all. . . . I have no real abilities. I know how to use the previously did not know. Also, before this class, I never thought of
Internet, but so do children nowadays.” becoming self-employed, which is what I want to do now. So this had
initiated something . . . The most important thing [I learned] is
entrepreneurial thinking, recognizing this opportunity . . . and also the
business side: the bills, cost–benefit calculations.”
Imprisonment: “[In prison, I miss] that I can’t do what I want. I can’t do M Imprisonment: “The atmosphere in the course was superb. You have very H
here what I want to do. Here there are only a few limited things I can different thoughts and deal with other things. Otherwise [if not for the class],
do. So I go to work, and then I go play sports a bit, and that is it. Card in the evening I would mostly lie on the bed and watch television.”
games a bit and such things, but I [miss] the things I want to do,
ordinary things. Just to go outside, go to the cinema, anything.”
Attitude regarding others: “There are probably three to four people in the L Attitude regarding others: “So yes, we talk quite a lot [outside class as a H
prison I speak with, and I have nothing to do with all the rest.” group]. . . . [Social interaction] is constant all the time. The contact is always
(table continues)
Attitudes before Level Attitudes after Level

Perry Perry
Entrepreneurial competence: “I had thought about it [becoming an L Entrepreneurial competence: [I have learned] To go through life with your H
entrepreneur] sometime before prison, but I never really took eyes open. Yes, I think it is amazing that we can learn about or discover
initiative. . . . [The program should help me] with business issues, I opportunities that are in little things. We now look at things we have
don’t know anything about this.” taken for granted previously with a different point of view. You are able
to envision things differently. . . . I really liked learning. . . . Not to be
focused on your idea and to put it through stubbornly, but to balance
facts and to possibly revise your idea or find another business idea.”
Imprisonment: “For me, the future is looking quite positive. . . . I have had H Imprisonment: “I am very excited about all the information I have H
the opportunity to get some education here and will come out better received. If not [for this class], I would generally not be challenged
than I came in.” mentally [due to prison life], but now, I’m challenged to extreme levels.
I find that fantastic.”
Attitude regarding others: [Interviewer: “You said you get along with M-H Attitude regarding others: “Those in the class have reworked everything H
inmates pretty well?] “Yes.” [Interviewer: “How about the prison and have endless ambition. They really got into it. I think it is
officials?”]: “I do not have any problems with personnel or wardens. I great. . . . We helped each other on the business plans and gave
get along with most of them well. There are always some you might advice. . . . We have helped each other quite well.”
argue with, but this is normal.”
Parker Parker
Entrepreneurial competence: “[Previously I was self-employed] working in M-H Entrepreneurial competence: “I have developed a business plan, and it is H
sales and distribution. I’ve also done different things in the financial fun, real fun, even if it comes under these difficult circumstances. . . .
sector, including selling company shares. . . . I’ve never before been Now that we have learned about these things, I think it pushes me
imprisoned, but I hear of stories that real problems start when you are forward personally. . . . These perspectives cause us to sharpen our
[back] out there.” view even about situations that come up in life.”
Imprisonment: “In prison, we have very little time; I know it sounds like a M Imprisonment: “[Pursuing my idea] helped me forget that I was here [in H
paradox. We don’t ‘sit around’ here in prison—except the people who prison]. . . . As long as I was attending the courses and working on my
do not work; they have more time. . . . When one has learned to deal idea, it was as if I was not locked up. . . . [It allowed me] to beam
with oneself, there is much to do.” myself away from prison with the idea. This has been very good . . . ”
Attitude regarding others: [I don’t have friends here;] We say ‘good M Attitude regarding others: “I get together with colleagues and with those H
acquaintances.’ . . . I also had the luck or the gift in the past when I who are not participating in the course or with those who wanted to
was at home that I always met good people. This is repeated here also. participate. There are also those who simply did not join for whatever
I observe that I met good people here who have helped me along the reason. . . . I have to say, there are a lot of advantages because of this
way.” [sharing ideas with others].”
Patrick Patrick
Entrepreneurial competence: “I have a few ideas that I didn’t have until 3 L Entrepreneurial competence: “At the beginning, I did not even know what H
weeks ago. I sat down in the room and considered, ‘Where could I find I would be able to do [after prison], what kind of service, what kind of
an idea, the idea of a profession? Or what did someone else do that product I wanted to offer, what kind of business idea I wanted to bring
went very positively? ’. . . Whether I’m self-employed or not, learning is to market. [However] Recently I have endless ideas [for things I can
never wrong.” do]. . . . [Through the course] I have been given entirely new
perspectives, and I think very differently now. I handle things in a
totally different way.”
Imprisonment: “I myself have not done anything wrong in [prison]. I do M-L Imprisonment: [In response to the question “So you said you are more H
not succumb to negative temptations. There are indeed offers here challenged mentally no?”] “Definitely, definitely. . . . I think I have
[such as], ‘Oh come on, you want to smoke?’ or whatever. I want become more independent, not only on the entrepreneurial part but
nothing at all in here, no alcohol, nothing. I would like to serve my also . . . in thinking about the future.”
time here and would like to do my work.”
Attitude regarding others: [In response to the question “Would you say L Attitude regarding others: “I was a little unsure 2 months ago because of H
you have friends here?”] “No. Friends are something else. Here there is private problems. I was thinking about [dropping out], but then other
what you call prison friendship, but that has nothing to do with the participants encouraged me. . . . It was really great. I was encouraged
outside [concept of a friend].” [by the others], and this gave me strength to go ahead.”

Note. Quotes in the left column are taken from participants’ reflections on how they felt prior to starting the program.
These interviews were conducted after the program had started.
2014 Patzelt, Williams, and Shepherd 611

In sum, our data provide evidence that persis- by combat to overcome physical and psychological
tence in the entrepreneurship educational pro- constraints to moving on with their lives. Namely,
gram helped inmates to develop an even more making sense of their past by developing a coher-
positive attitude toward pursuing the career of an ent career narrative was an important prerequisite
entrepreneur, toward their situation of imprison- for soldiers and marines to accommodate the trau-
ment, and toward other inmates surrounding them. matic discontinuity in their lives and to develop
Thus, we propose the following: the belief that they could pursue a successful ca-
Proposition 6: In entrepreneurship educational reer in the future. Building upon this work, we
programs in prison, inmates who explored the notion of a personal agency mind-set
successfully persist with the program in a prison setting, and the contribution that such a
experience a change in attitudes to- mind-set played in program persistence. Specifi-
ward themselves (i.e., increased be- cally, we found that without a personal agency
liefs in their entrepreneurial compe- mind-set, prisoners were unable to make sense of
tence), their current situation (i.e., a their criminal life histories, to identify potential
more positive attitude about impris- entrepreneurial opportunities, and to be prepared
onment), and others (i.e., a more to move on after release from prison. It appears
positive attitude toward other in- that entrepreneurship education can be particu-
mates, family members, and prison larly beneficial for individuals who find them-
personnel). selves in difficult life situations if they have a
personal agency mind-set and use of a potential
entrepreneurial opportunity as a vehicle to enact
future goals in the present. Future research might
We explore how entrepreneurship education in investigate how a personal agency mind-set can
prison can impact inmates’ attitudes as well as be developed in specific contexts and how effec-
what enables them to persist with an entrepre- tive participant selection based on a personal
neurship education program. As we noted at the agency mind-set can be implemented.
outset, entrepreneurship education might be par- A complementary explanation is that “positive
ticularly effective in prison because (1) it provides possible selves” (Ibarra, 2003; Markus & Nurius,
an alternative career path for released prisoners 1986), emboldened by a personal agency mind-set,
facing problems related to entering salaried em- encourage persistence with the entrepreneurship
ployment (cf. Case & Fasenfest, 2004; Cooney, education program. For those prisoners who
2005), and (2) developing an entrepreneurial mind- blamed external sources for their imprisonment,
set can help overcome situations that are difficult believed that they lacked control over their post-
personally and psychologically (cf. Haynie & Shep- prison life, and were pessimistic about the future,
herd, 2011). Given uncommon access to the prison the positive possible identity of entrepreneurs
context and the opportunity to interview prisoners likely conflicts with their current and strongly held
and instructors multiple times over the time frame identity as a victim of a malevolent environment.
of an entrepreneurship program, our study pro- To drop (or substantially change) this victim iden-
vides various new insights for the management tity and thereby admit that they had done some-
and entrepreneurship education literature, to thing wrong, that they deserved to be in prison,
which we now turn. and that they alone were responsible for their in-
In business school or university settings, stu- carceration, represents a big “pill to swallow.” In-
dents are usually not in a situation that triggers deed, when a learning environment creates this
the need for blame (of the self or others), of dimin- sort of identity conflict, students may disengage
ished perceptions of control (by limiting behav- from the education program (Dean & Jolly, 2012),
ioral freedom), or that provokes a pessimistic atti- and thus, are more likely to drop out. Moreover,
tude about the future (by being stigmatized as a although we found the aspects of a prisoner’s per-
criminal or prisoner). Yet, entrepreneurship educa- sonal agency to be either all high or all low, it is
tion can substantially impact individuals’ lives possible future research may find that within an
and careers in other contexts, which have rarely individual some aspects are high and others low,
been studied to date. For example, Haynie and which may create further dissonance, and thus,
Shepherd (2011) found that entrepreneurship pro- potential disengagement. Research on identity
grams can help soldiers and marines traumatized change and discontinuous career transitions (Hall,
612 Academy of Management Learning & Education December

1996; Haynie & Shepherd, 2011; Ibarra, 1999, 2003; findings suggest that antecedent to prisoners’ rec-
Markus & Nurius, 1986) may provide an important ognition of potential opportunities is a mind-set
basis for further explorations into prisoners’ en- that assumes responsibility for the past (and pres-
gagement in learning activities. Specifically, ent circumstances) as well as anticipated control
based on the literature on identity work (Ibarra, over and optimism for the future. These findings
1999; Petriglieri & Petriglieri, 2010; Petriglieri, complement research on the knowledge structure
Wood, & Petriglieri, 2011; Snow & Anderson, 1987), approach to mental frames as a means of perceiv-
future research could investigate the extent to ing the world differently necessary for opportunity
which different prison programs provide an iden- recognition. Second, our findings suggest that
tity workspace—a holding environment which “re- in the prison context, recognition of a potential
duces disturbing affect and facilitates sense mak- opportunity is an input to program completion
ing” for individuals “engaged in the pursuit of rather than solely an outcome of program comple-
identity stabilization (consolidating an existing tion. The opportunity recognition process helps
identity) or in identity transition (acquiring a new prisoners change their mental frames such that
one)” (Petriglieri & Petriglieri, 2010: 44). Some pos- there is a change in their attitudes about their
sible avenues to explore might be “Why are some entrepreneurial competence, imprisonment, and
prison programs more effective at creating an others. Acknowledging a reciprocal relationship
identity workspace than others? Because entrepre- between opportunity recognition and mental
neurship provides more autonomy than employ- frames provides the opportunity for future research
ment (Birley & Westhead, 1994; Blanchflower & Os- to explore positive spirals (for those who complete
wald, 1992; Hamilton, 2000), do entrepreneurship the program but do not change or even perhaps
programs stimulate and facilitate prisoners’ iden- negative spirals for those who do not complete the
tity transition more than other educational pro- program).
grams? What aspects of a prison entrepreneurship A central finding of our study is that recognizing
program enable it to facilitate identity work more a potential entrepreneurial opportunity based on
than other prison entrepreneurship programs?” inmates’ sense-making of their past and their mo-
Entrepreneurship research has acknowledged tivation for the future played a key role in explain-
the importance of opportunity recognition (Shane & ing program persistence. That is, opportunity
Venkataraman, 2000; Venkataraman, 1997), pro- recognition processes are “tools” that facilitate en-
vided evidence that some individuals have a gagement in the course. This finding is important
greater opportunity identification capability than for developing entrepreneurship program content
others (Fiet, 2002), and that education can facilitate for prison contexts and perhaps other settings in
the development of this opportunity identification which course participants are not (primarily)
capability (DeTienne & Chandler, 2004; Fiet, 2002; driven by grades or collecting certificates or course
Munoz et al., 2011). It appears that individuals’ credits (e.g., retraining programs for laid-off work-
ability to identify opportunities is underpinned by ers, adult learning professional certificate pro-
mental frames that allow them to perceive the en- grams, etc.). In addition, given the high cost of
vironment differently from others (Munoz et al., imprisonment and generally high recidivism rates,
2011), and thereby, for example, make novel con- this finding is beneficial in that further empirical
nections between technologies and markets (Gré- research could highlight specific benefits of these
goire, Barr, & Shepherd, 2010). Although these men- types of programs and additional impacts (e.g.,
tal frames have primarily been investigated in cost, recidivism) of imprisonment (especially given
terms of knowledge structure based on stored ex- the sparse research on the topic). It appears that in
periences, for example, schema (Fiske & Taylor, such settings, at the beginning of the course, in-
1984; Mitchell, Busenitz, Lant, McDougall, Morse, & structors should pay particular attention to activat-
Smith, 2002); prototypes (Baron & Ensley, 2006); and ing students’ opportunity recognition processes to
mental models (Cope, 2003)—for an exception see facilitate persistence. Existing research describes
work on regulatory focus (Brockner, Higgins, & tools and methods for how opportunity recognition
Low, 2004; Higgins, 1998; Hmieleski & Baron, 2008) can be developed as a competency and can be
and optimism (Baron, 2008; Hmieleski & Baron, practiced in the classroom (DeTienne & Chandler,
2009)—in the current study we found evidence of a 2004; Fiet, 2002; Munoz et al., 2011). Other typical
prisoner’s personal agency mind-set which pro- entrepreneurship course content that is less di-
vides additional insights to the literature. First, our rectly related to participants’ opportunity recogni-
2014 Patzelt, Williams, and Shepherd 613

tion, such as business planning (Honig, 2004), or ing inmates’ attitudes. This finding complements
case studies (e.g., Austin & Porraz, 2002), might existing literature (e.g., Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-
even lead inmates to drop out of the program if Skillern, 2006; Dees, 1996; Mair & Marti, 2006) by
they are taught too early in the course—that is, drawing the focus away from the opportunity’s eco-
before students recognize a potential opportunity nomic potential as a quality criterion. For example,
for themselves. Participants in our study, however, potential opportunities identified by inmates in
persisted with business plans later in the course our study included a cafe, an intercultural non-
based on the potential opportunities they had rec- profit association, a food-delivery service, a dental
ognized earlier, and those who had recognized a laboratory, and an Internet auction platform— op-
potential opportunity persisted with the course un- portunities that differ considerably in their eco-
til its end. Thus, while existing literature on entre- nomic potential. In all cases, identifying the poten-
preneurship education has focused on how to tial opportunity was a vehicle to persistence and
teach opportunity recognition (DeTienne & Chan- triggered inmates’ similar attitudinal changes
dler, 2004; Munoz et al., 2011), we complement this along the three dimensions described. In contexts
work by exploring when to teach it. where such attitude change is an important goal or
Our study also complements the literature on the outcome of entrepreneurship education programs
outcomes of management and entrepreneurship (e.g., the prisoners [here] or traumatized soldiers
education. Much of this literature emphasizes the and marines in Haynie & Shepherd, 2011), instruc-
importance of learning new capabilities, such as tors might pay more attention to whether potential
leadership skills (Ng, Dyne, & Ang, 2009), teamwork opportunities developed throughout the program
(Hirst, Mann, Bain, Pirola-Merlo, & Richver, 2004), actually fit participants’ interests and passions,
recognizing business opportunities (DeTienne & rather than if they have high economic potential.
Chandler, 2004; Munoz et al., 2011), and creativity
(Sanders & Sanders, 1984). As a result of knowing
Limitations and Future Research
how to execute these tasks, students develop task-
specific self-efficacy (Gist & Mitchell, 1992), which In this multiple case study we explored variance in
can trigger their motivation to pursue a particular persistence and attitudes (about self, others, and
career, including entrepreneurship (Krueger et al., the future) across participants engaged in a spe-
2000; Smith & Woodworth, 2012). We also found that cific entrepreneurship education program in a spe-
entrepreneurship education strengthens inmates’ cific prison. Although this enabled us to explore
beliefs in their entrepreneurial competencies, and inter- and intraindividual differences, a limitation
thus, their beliefs in their ability to succeed as is that we could not explore the effects of program-
entrepreneurs. However, during the educational or prison-level factors, and in building theory, is-
program, those inmates who persisted also expe- sues of generalizability remain untested. But fu-
rienced a change in their attitudes toward their ture research can do so.
current situation and their attitudes toward others. First, programs differ in their content, duration,
That is, in the current setting, entrepreneurship and delivery, which may moderate the relation-
education has the potential to change inmates’ ships proposed in our work here. In a past-program
fundamental attitudes toward important aspects of review, Cooney (2012) found that participants of an
life beyond those specific to the content of the entrepreneurship education program in prison felt
course (i.e., beyond entrepreneurial self-efficacy). uneasy about the content of the program focused
Our findings extend this research from the specific primarily on highly successful businesses. Given
benefit of having a new skill (e.g., leadership, our findings on how a program can change partic-
teamwork) to the enabling impact entrepreneur- ipants’ attitudes about their entrepreneurial com-
ship education has on students who create and petence, imprisonment, and relationship with oth-
pursue potential opportunities, giving inmates ers, future research could investigate the content
hope for the future and illustrating an alternate that best facilitates these changes. For example,
path for their lives that has not been obvious to perhaps content that focuses on small businesses
them before starting the program. operating in relatively stable environments that
Another interesting implication from our study is provide “income replacement” and which rely on
that the economic potential of the potential oppor- bootstrapping financial techniques might be more
tunity appears to be of relatively little importance appropriate than content that focuses on creating
for motivating program persistence and transform- (or acquiring) high potential, venture capital-
614 Academy of Management Learning & Education December

backed businesses operating in highly dynamic tional programs for careers as an employee, such
environments. Moreover, while impression man- as a fork lift driver, welder, or baker? We suspect
agement is important for most entrepreneurs that with entrepreneurship education programs,
(Clair, Beatty, & Maclean, 2005; Shepherd & there is greater emphasis on the prisoner’s per-
Haynie, 2011), entrepreneurship education pro- sonal agency mind-set, recognizing opportunities,
grams that teach impression management for making sense of the past, and developing a gen-
overcoming stigma may help these individuals eral orientation toward the future because an en-
overcome potential customers’ doubt over dealing trepreneurial career offers the potential for high
with an entrepreneur with a criminal record. Fur- autonomy (Birley & Westhead, 1994; Blanchflower
ther, in our study, prison officials influenced the & Oswald, 1992; Hamilton, 2000); that opportunities
days and duration of the program. Future research primarily exist in environments of high uncertainty
can explore the impact of both the duration of the (Eckhardt & Shane, 2003); and that entrepreneurial
program and the frequency of the sessions on the action requires belief about a possible future state
various educational outcomes. Last, a recent study (McMullen & Shepherd, 2006; Mitchell & Shepherd,
found that inmates feel uncomfortable discussing 2010). However, future research could explore the
aspects of themselves or their business in front of extent to which our proposition applies to other
other participants but prefer one-on-one discus- career-related educational programs in prisons.
sions with “outsiders” (Cooney, 2012). Future re- Third, programs and instructors are nested in
search that can gain a deeper understanding of the prisons. How do prisons differ in the “environment”
obstacles to group learning in the prison context they create for entrepreneurship education pro-
will make an important contribution to the litera- grams and what are the “learning” effects of those
ture. Perhaps such research will reveal necessary differences? For example, in one educational pro-
steps that need to occur before group-work or an gram prison officials frequently observed the
alternate interaction mode (e.g., one-on-one inter- class, which appeared to obstruct the flow of the
actions as part of a mentorship model). discussion (Parrotta & Thompson, 2011). In contrast,
Second, programs can be delivered by different most of the individuals (persisters) in our dataset
instructors. An important question then becomes described the entrepreneurship class as an “es-
why are some instructors more effective than oth- cape” from the prison life, or an opportunity to “be
ers teaching in the prison context, and in what and feel normal again” that in part appeared to
ways is the instructor-effectiveness relationship overcome challenges associated with the prison
different in the prison context vis-à-vis the univer- environment (i.e., limited access to market re-
sity or community college context? In the prison search via the Internet). Future research is needed
context, it has been proposed that instructor empa- on how and why prison environments influence
thy is particularly important (Parrotta & Thompson, delivery or outcomes of entrepreneurship educa-
2011), yet our data also suggest that it was impor- tion programs. Indeed, there is an opportunity to
tant that instructors be “authentic” in their primary explore cross-level effects, such as the interaction
objective in developing entrepreneurs. Some par- between program content and prison environment
ticipants were (initially) concerned the program or the interaction between instructor “style” and
was another attempt at therapy as opposed to a prison environment.
real program—a notion they vehemently opposed. Fourth, more work should be done on the role of
Future research could further explore the nature of inter- and intraindividual differences illuminated
the instructor-effectiveness relationship while con- here. First, although self-selection challenges with
sidering the findings here. Examples might ex- longitudinal research involving prison education
plore the following: Does empathy facilitate the programs exists, these challenges are surmount-
building of trust (and authenticity) necessary for able (Cho & Tyler, 2010; Sedgley et al., 2010). Future
teaching effectiveness?; how do instructors de- research could use a longitudinal design to collect
velop and communicate empathy?; what levels of data on a representative sample of inmates before,
empathy are appropriate?; and what effect do in- during, and after an entrepreneurship education
structors’ sympathy and prosocial motivation have program to test the propositions offered above (for
on educational effectiveness? Research could also a specific discussion of testing program changes,
compare across programs of study. We explored an see Shaw, Fisher, & Southey, 1999). These studies
educational program focused on an entrepreneur- could also track individuals who were admitted
ial career, but would the results differ for educa- into the program and yet failed to complete it (as a
2014 Patzelt, Williams, and Shepherd 615

control), in particular in terms of postprison em- ing outcomes for prisoners (e.g., self-employment),
ployment and entrepreneurial activity. Second, in and therefore, for society.
our study, at the direction of prison authori- Last, the insights provided here and the sugges-
ties, program participants had between 6 and tions for future research are in the context of an
30 months’ time to release. The assumption (by educational program in a prison. Perhaps given
prison officials) is that these individuals have the the size of the prison population (e.g., 2.2 million in
greatest potential to benefit from the program. This U.S. prisons in 2010, Walmsley, 2011) and the efforts
assumption could be tested. As mentioned above, undertaken to educate inmates (Chappell, 2004;
in our small sample (sufficient for theory building, Costelloe & Langelid, 2011; Costelloe & Warner,
but insufficient for theory testing, and generaliz- 2008), the generalizability of this research stream
able results), we observed no consistent relation- beyond the prison population is not of critical im-
ship between prison time remaining and partici- portance. That is, gaining an understanding of en-
pation or success in the program. Subsequent trepreneurship education in prisons is a sufficient
studies could test these relationships on a large ends in and of itself. However, there are opportu-
sample. What is the relationship between release nities for theorizing to push boundaries beyond the
time and the impact of an entrepreneurship edu- prison context to other educational contexts. For
cation program? What moderates this relation- example, future research might explore the nature
ship? Perhaps there is a positive relationship be- of a personal agency mind-set and its relationship
tween time to release and beneficial outcomes but with opportunity recognition in educational pro-
more so for those with less time served than for grams within other participant samples such as (1)
those with more. Other moderators could include individuals who face adversity (self-inflicted or
not), for example, those located in areas of low
inmate age, type of crime committed, or drug use
social economic status, those traumatized by a
(see Piotrowski & Lathrop, 2012; Sedgley et al.,
negative event, and those hospitalized for a con-
2010). Third, although we explored variance across
siderable period; (2) individuals who require a life
and within a sample of prisoners, future research
“course correction,” such as those admitted to a
could explore the impact of entrepreneurship edu-
drug rehabilitation clinic, experiencing bank-
cation on prisoners in relation to a matched sam-
ruptcy, or recently divorced; and (3) individuals
ple of nonprisoners (matched in terms of age, ed-
who live under relatively constant threats, such as
ucation level, personal wealth, role models, and so
in a war-torn region or an extremely impoverished
on). Indeed, research indicates that prisoners may
economic environment (i.e., in a developing econ-
already have predispositions or skill sets suitable omy). In these instances, there may be commonal-
for an entrepreneurial career (Gottschalk, 2009; ity in the personal agency mind-sets that explain
Lockwood, Teasley, Carland, & Carland, 2006). Per- persistence and the role of recognizing a potential
haps educational programs can redirect their en- opportunity in initiating changes in individuals’
trepreneurial attention away from illegal activities attitudes about themselves, their situation, and
and toward opportunities that add value to society. others.
Fourth, there are also opportunities to explore
cross-level moderators, such as the moderating
role of program-level variables on the relationship CONCLUSIONS
between individual difference variables (i.e., per- Many prisons have introduced educational pro-
sonal agency mind-set and potential opportunities grams that prepare inmates for reintegration into
recognized) and beneficial educational outcomes work and society after release. We demonstrate
(i.e., postprison self-employment) or the intra- that entrepreneurship education in prison might
individual changes over the course of the program be particularly effective because in addition to
(i.e., change in attitude about self, imprisonment, providing an alternative career path, it transforms
and others). Although research does indicate that a prisoners’ attitudes toward themselves, their cur-
variety of psychological, social, and environmen- rent situation, and others in their environment. A
tal factors can influence education outcomes in a prerequisite for persistence with the entrepreneur-
traditional setting (Robbins, Lauver, Le, Davis, ship program is that prisoners have a personal
Langley, & Carlstrom, 2004), additional research in agency mind-set of internalizing blame, maintain-
the prison setting could greatly enhance our un- ing low pessimism, and believing in their ability to
derstanding of the conditions and factors influenc- control future outcomes. This mind-set helps acti-
616 Academy of Management Learning & Education December

vate opportunity recognition processes that serve commercial entrepreneurship: Same, different, or both? En-
as vehicles for persistence in and successful com- trepreneurship Theory and Practitioners, 30: 1–22.
pletion of the entrepreneurship program. These Bandura, A. 1986. Social foundations of thought and action.
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success as well as by explaining variance in why Baron, R. A. 2008. The role of affect in the entrepreneurial pro-
some participants successfully persist with such cess. Academy of Management Review, 33: 328 –340.
programs while others do not. Baron, R. A., & Ensley, M. D. 2006. Opportunity recognition as the
detection of meaningful patterns: Evidence from compari-
sons of novice and experienced entrepreneurs. Manage-
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Holger Patzelt is the chair in Entrepreneurship and professor of entrepreneurship at the

Technische Universität München. Patzelt earned his PhD in entrepreneurship at the Univer-
sität of Bamberg and a PhD in biosciences at the Universität of Heidelberg. His research
focuses on entrepreneurial cognition, motivation, and strategy.

Trenton A. Williams is a visiting assistant professor at the Kelley School of Business at

Indiana University. Willliams earned his PhD in entrepreneurship and strategic management
at Indiana University. His research focuses on new venture creation, resilience, and entrepre-
neurial decision making.

Dean A. Shepherd is the David H. Jacobs Chair in Strategic Entrepreneurship and professor of
entrepreneurship at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. Shepherd received his
doctorate and MBA from Bond University (Australia) and a Bachelor of Applied Science from
the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. His research includes the decision making of
entrepreneurs, new venture strategy, learning from failure, and opportunity beliefs.
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