Grant-Funded Computer Coding Program for Female Inmates

California's computer coding program is now available to female inmates. Shown is binary code.

Expansion of CALPIA’s computer coding program aims to lower recidivism rates by providing rehabilitation and job opportunities to female inmates.

In a joint venture between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the California Prison Industry (CALPIA), the successful computer coding program initiated at San Quentin State Prison by the non-profit The Last Mile (TLM) in 2015 will expand to the California Institution for Women (CIW).

The expansion of the computer coding program was made possible by a grant from the CDCR designed to boost innovative programs at California prisons. The program is one of 43 funded by the $14.5 million grant, among projects including communication and deescalation skills, service dog training and prison gardens.

With the help of the grant, 27 women at CIW will be eligible to participate in the computer coding program, which will allow them to gain marketable skills they can use upon reentry to the workforce.

The expansion of CALPIA's computer coding program will help lower recidivism rates among female inmates.

Image: The Last Mile

Computer Coding Program Expands Inmates’ Futures

TLM was created when venture capitalist Chris Redlitz and his wife Beverly Parenti visited San Quentin in 2010. During their trip, they were impressed by the number of inmates who were interested in learning the business world.

“Many wanted to start businesses, they wanted to learn how to invest and they wanted to understand what it was like in the real world,” Redlitzi said in an interview with CNBC.

In the two years since the computer coding program, Code.7370, was implemented, 20 men have graduated, and none have returned to prison. When the founders of TLM reflect on their investment, they believe they are helping create a community they want to live in. Parenti said:

“The truth is that 95 percent of the people who are incarcerated in our facilities in the United States are coming home. So I ask: Who do you want them to be?”

Inmates in the program, on top of learning a marketable skill, are paid more than $16 per hour, the highest wage earned in a U.S. prison.

Computer Coding Program Simulates Live Coding

While a lack of internet connection makes for an interesting obstacle, the program relies on a unique programming platform that simulates a live coding experience. During their training, participants in the coding program learn HTML, JavaScript, CSS and Python, as well as web and logo design, data visualization and UX/UI.

TLM is currently hiring a Classroom Facilitator to work inside the CIW with program participants. Prospective applicants can find more information on the TLM website.

About the author

Rachel Engel

Rachel Engel

Author Rachel Engel is also Associate Editor of Military1.com. She is based in Kansas.