In the United States, as many as two-thirds of prisoners will return to prison within five years of getting out. Among the many reasons for this, lack of direction and job prospects rank high – which is why a program to teach coding to inmates is becoming such a success.

After almost a decade in San Quentin State Prison, Steve Lacerda walked out not only with his freedom, but with a real, useable skill that made him work-ready.

Education programs in prisons are nothing new, of course – but they don’t often tend to teach full courses that give skills which are relevant and much needed in society.

Coding websites without using the Internet

Steve Lacerda benefited from The Last Mile Works (TLM), a program started by venture capitalists to teach website coding inside prisons. Amazingly, website coding is taught without the use of the Internet.

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Lacerda told TechDigg:

“Being a part of The Last Mile‘s coding program has been incredible. Honing the skills that go into coding a website has been a fulfilling process for me, personally, and I’ve gotten to see others meet their potential in the process.

“In prison, we want different lives, we want better lives, and the TLM coding program is making that possible. As I’ve moved on from San Quentin and rejoined my family, it’s very clear to me that we need more opportunities like this.”

A more effective justice system

Just last month, one of TLM’s first paid projects launched. The Coalition for Public Safety (CPS) – the largest national bipartisan justice reform coalition – commissioned TLM to develop their new website, and produced a short film to mark the occasion.

Even if some people are not particularly concerned with second chances for criminals, a project like this makes sense for society as a whole and for taxpayers. Instead of going back into prison (likely for a crime that will affect other members of society), ex-cons with a job and a purpose will be paying tax instead of draining it.

Steve Hawkins, President of the Coalition for Public Safety, told TechDigg:

“The statistics on how many people return to prison after release are staggering: two out of three will go back within five years? That’s unacceptable. By partnering with The Last Mile Works, we’re proving that it’s possible to fill the gaps that make reentry so difficult by equipping men and women with skills that make them valuable to employers even before reentering society.

“As the largest national bipartisan justice reform coalition, putting our money where our mouth is is incredibly important to us.This project is more than a website; it’s a precedent that we hope many others will follow so we can together make our justice system fairer and more effective for all.”

Coding is making a difference to prisoners getting out
Graduation day. Source: The Last Mile Works

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