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Incarceration in the United States is often a punitive exercise rather than a rehabilitative one. As a consequence, recidivism is the norm – according to a 2012 report by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, just over 65% of those released from California’s prison system return within three years. San Quentin State Prison in California is challenging this issue by trying to equip inmates with valuable skills while they are incarcerated.
The Last Mile is a program that works with prisoners to help them build relevant skills in technology so that they can more easily transition to productive employment once they are out of prison. Specifically, it teaches inmates how to program, oftentimes starting at the basics like how to use a computer, and how hypertext works. In addition to the challenges of teaching students who may not know computer basics, the program has to work with the constraint of not having internet access. In this episode, Wes and Jeff discuss the realities of incarceration in the United States, and how teaching inmates how to code is a remarkably empowering way to combat and weaken the prison-industrial complex.
Wes Bailey is the Director of Program Operations at The Last Mile, and a self-taught developer.