Lifelong Information for Entrepreneurs (LIFE)


Micro-enterprise Reentry Training for Incarcerated Women

“I have a much brighter future as a result of your class, I wish you could expand it so everyone who wants it could take it.  I think it is the single most important program CCCF has that will help paroling inmates achieve success.”

– LIFE participant, May 2011

The LIFE prison reentry program reduces recidivism up to 50%; building resiliency and establishing self-sufficiency and economic stability for incarcerated individuals and their families.

In 2007, MCNW launched Lifelong Education for Entrepreneurs (LIFE) at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF) in Wilsonville, OR.  This business education course serves women at CCCF, within 18 to 24 months of release, and provides them with business planning and training that promotes:

  • Job creation and economic self-sufficiency
  • Reduces reliance on social welfare programs
  • Prevents further criminal activity
  • Most of all, it betters the lives of these individuals, their families and communities.

LIFE Components

The classes are delivered by MCNW staff with help from community experts and volunteers. Students are taught small business development topics such as profit and loss projections, legal organization, break-even analysis and marketing as well life skills such as effective communication, conflict management, goal planning and time management.

With support from the Multnomah County Health Department, the LIFE program also incorporates bridging services to allow participants to meet 1:1 with a social worker both pre and post release. During these meetings, the social worker:

  • Pre-Release Identifies gaps and gives individualized feedback on the student’s transition plan, offers county-specific resource information and provides assistance in navigating and accessing primary medical care, mental health, and addictions treatment, and delivers practical support related to problem-solving, stress-management, action planning, and communication skills.
  • Post-release – Gives in-person or phone-based counseling and emotional support, as well as referrals to medical/mental health care, housing, A&D support, and other re-entry services.

Along with coursework and mentoring support, MCNW offers an innovative matched savings program that encourages both the fiscal discipline of saving toward a goal, and the development of resources for successful reentry. Students must demonstrate consistent attendance, complete homework, create and execute a savings plan based on their current earnings and needs, and complete both a transition plan and a business plan. Once they have filled these requirements, the students are eligible for a $500 grant for transition needs upon release.


Learn More about LIFE

Why the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility?

Over 1,000 Oregon women are incarcerated in Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF); about one-quarter are re-convicted of a felony within three years of release. Two critical issues for women’s success upon returning to the community are getting a job and staying healthy:

  • Poor work histories, minimal education, and criminal records can make securing living-wage jobs difficult.
  • Over 75% of women in CCCF have mental health needs; over 80% have substance use issues.
  • Health problems put formerly incarcerated women at higher risk of unemployment.

With a goal to to improve incarcerated women’s employment success, mental and physical health, and to decrease recidivism, MCNW works with Portland Community College and the staff of CCCF to provide entrepreneurial training that builds upon existing vocational training programs in optometry, cosmetology, plant management, welding and horticulture (visit Coffee Creek Gardens). The financial literacy and business planning of the LIFE curriculum complements these vocational training programs and promotes the individuals’ potential for self-employment.

Voices of Reentry

Hear people’s stories of success.


This project is supported by the joint efforts of the organizations listed below.