Each year, around 760,000 people are released from prison in the United States, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Ralphy Dominguez, 30 years old, a young entrepreneur from the Bronx, is one of them.
Dominguez, who left prison in 2012, has been running his business Pen & Pistol, a start up selling handmade wallets, belts and tote bags, for a year and a half.
He was arrested for using and distributing marijuana in Wheaton College, which led to his arrest in 2009. He was shortly sentenced to prison for five years.
While in prison, a fellow inmate introduced Dominguez to a craft course in making leather accessories. Dominguez found his calling, “I love doing things with my hands.”
When he got out of prison, he pitched his business idea to organizations that help former prisoners’ reentries, such as Defy Ventures and Refoundry, and he started getting funding and recycled materials to make the wallets.
With his business taking off, Dominguez has hired two former inmates. He said he hopes to help them with their transitions back to society.
“Hiring the same exact people that I know, the same people that would come home, not finding anything worthwhile and get back into selling drugs or whatever they do on the streets to make a living,” he said, “That is something that I want to address through my business.”