One California prison is taking the battle against high recidivism rates into the digital age and using a unique program to help inmates become tech savvy developers and entrepreneurs.
Coding classes and tech incubators are far from rare but having one in a state prison is nearly unheard of.
Over the past few years California has been faced with the problem of overcrowded prisons and etremely high recidivism rates.
San Quentin State Prison believes it has the answer to tackling both of these problems.
The prison is participating in a program that has been dubbed Code.7370, which could lay the foundation for what might be one of the most effective ways to ensure inmates are not only prepared to re-enter society but are also able to successfully thrive in the job market once they are released.
Eight hours a day, four times a week the inmates will be working on developing and sharpening the types of skills that would make them viable candidates for entry-level developer positions.
“The new Code.7370 program is unique not only because it’s being taught inside San Quentin State Prison, but it has an end-goal of preparing formerly incarcerated people for jobs in the tech sector after they are released from prison,” said Chris Redlitz, the co-founder of the Last Mile, the nonprofit organization that launched the program.
In addition to giving the inmates the skills they need to make their way into Silicon Valley, the program has the potential to turn each of the inmates into tech entrepreneurs by offering them a technology entrepreneurship class.
The class will assist the inmates in developing ideas, business plans and product concepts that could help them launch their own successful start-ups once they are released.
While the inmates will have to wait until their release date to launch the start-up, they won’t have to wait to start finding funding for the business.
Code.7370 will host a Demo Day for the inmates so they can pitch their ideas to potential investors and Silicon Valley executives, USA Today reported.
Last Mile, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco that is aimed at creating a strong relationship between the tech sector and the penal system, teamed up with the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) and the coding academy Hack Reactor in order to make the revolutionary program a reality.
If the results of the program prove to be effective, similar programs could start popping up in prisons all across the nation, which would not only help fight recidivism rates but also help add more qualified individuals and people of color to the tech space.
A recent study revealed that the technology industry is growing so quickly that there could be a deficit of workers for the field in a matter of years.
Programs like this will be able to help close the gap between the amount of workers needed to fill certain positions and the amount of people who are actually qualified to do so, all while helping incarcerated people obtain the second chance they so desperately need.