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How detention center residents become business owners behind bars

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Time can be an enemy or an ally when locked up behind bars, but a new re-entry program has turned time an offender would spend on recreation into re-creation.   

The Next Great 50 graduated 12 Mecklenburg County Detention Center residents Friday afternoon from its three-month-long program, that helped them establish their own LLC businesses.   

They join 10 other graduates from the Mecklenburg County Detention Center, who’ve completed the program in the last eight months.   

Program founder Joshua Proby established the course as a way to give offenders some sort of outlet to help them focus on life after incarceration. It’s something he did not have during his 12-year prison sentence.   

Proby stressed the positive impact the program has locally. 

“When we’re looking at recidivism, nationally it’s 44 percent,” he said Friday. “But, here in Charlotte because of programs like this, it’s 29 percent.”  

The approved residents are put through several weeks of intense classes where they learn how to start a business and the details behind it like business credit, personal credit, business startup and mental health.   

Proby and his team of volunteers help each participant find their passion, and then, once they have a developed idea and business model, plug them in with others in the business.   

“I’ve built so many relationships and so many partnerships and different people and collaborate nations that now whatever business that most likely they’re going to select, we already have relationships with people who are successfully in those fields,” Proby explained. “So it’s kind of like a mentorship that would be and come after the establishment of it.”   

At Friday’s graduation, one of the new business owners expressed that he now has hope for his future.   

“I’ve been in here for two years, and since the program started, in two months it’s given me hope,” Richard Hutson, of R. Hutson Trucking LLC said. “Something to look forward too … I’m looking forward to it. It’s something positive, something that I can do when I get out that I wasn’t going to do before.”  

Proby said mindsets like Hutson’s that show why these programs work.   

“This becomes an alternative, rather than jacking up the bonds, those who already live in poverty,” Proby said. “You have a commitment to changing their lives, and this is program that can absolutely help.”   

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden agreed and said those who write programs like this off refuse to see the potential it has to change lives and prevent recidivism.   

“It is no forward thinking and absolutely no forward thinking,” McFadden said. “And I tell my staff here, expectations is what you have when you come in. I now have requirements. We do not say we think out of the box. We say we create the box for others to think out of.”   

The new business owners include:   

Charles Carothers – RedEast 2X LLC  

Samuel Gilchrist – Creative Cuts Landscaping LLC  

Richard Hutson – R. Hutson Trucking LLC  

Monterius Johnson – Explicit Legacy LLC  

Bryan Ledbetter – Who Got Next LLC  

Dontavius Paige – No Storm Last 4ever LLC  

Maceo Royster – Paragon Consulting Company LLC  

Ernest Santiago – Rip’N Run LLC  

Michael Separ – 2nd Shift Electric LLC  

Christopher Sigmon – Encore Digital LLC  

Kassey Walker – Switching Lanes Detailing & Landscaping LLC  

Keith Pharr – KP Rides LLC  

The Next Great 50 has begun a new business building program for those who are not incarcerated.  

To find out how you can be a part of it, or help, click here – (https://www.peace4poverty.org/ng50-program)   



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