Teaching prisoners coding
From the Code 4000 initiative
In California, there is a initiative called The Last Mile (TLM). It is an established prison coding programme that started in San Quentin but now runs in several prisons in California. They aim to teach people a life-changing skill and get them back into the job market. Donielle, who is a volunteer mentor with the initiative says, "It’s rare to meet so many passionate learners, and their drive is humbling and contagious to be around. In the four years I’ve mentored with TLM, many students have returned home. They’re now working as programmers, product managers, documentary film makers, mentoring other coding programs, and they all continue to amaze and inspire me to lead a more purposeful life."
Coding is one of the modern world’s most sought after skills. People who leave prison and find work are highly unlikely to reoffend. At the same time employment is one of the great barriers for people with criminal records, and many companies will not hire them. By teaching prisoners coding skills, we can significantly increase their chances of employment post-release, as well as help supply companies with the skills they so desperately need. Prisoners also have lot of time to practice and learn a new skill, something which is highly suitable to the trial and error method necessary to learn coding.
In UK, there is a new initiative - Code 4000 which is a social enterprise inspired by TLM. They want to build a similarly successful programme in the UK to those already operating in the US and elsewhere. They are working with close support from the Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS), who have kindly offered to help sponsor a first pilot at Humber, and with help from the Ministry of Justice. Starting with a pilot of sixteen prisoners at HMP Humber, they want to build a network of coding workshops in UK prisons, with the aim of giving people a second chance, turning their lives around, and training them in a skills set which has a high demand in the UK (and global) jobs market.
The development of each prison workshop is split into four stages:
Stage 2 allows successful graduates of Stage 1 to then work on real-world projects for external clients, which will also provide a modest income to the project.
Stage 3 will then see them working for clients in the real world on temporary day release.
Stage 4 aims to help them find full time employment as developers.
Of course, this is a pretty tall order, made all the more difficult when you consider that prisoners selected for the programme will be learning web development skills without direct access to the internet.
This scheme has the potential to turn around the lives of individuals, improve the prospects of the communities to which most of them will eventually return and save state and taxpayer money.
For more details, visit their website here.
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