‘Coding Gives Me This Dream': Program Teaches Inmates Web Design Skills

A program in one of California’s oldest correctional facilities is teaching inmates how to code. NBC Los Angeles reports that the program, called The Last Mile, was founded by husband and wife Chris Redlitz and Beverly Parenti. The two are Silicon Valley venture capitalists working to boost entrepreneurial and re-entry skills at San Quentin State Prison.

The Last Mile began to teach inmates to start their own business and pitch their ideas, later evolving to have six-month coding and web design intensive programs. WFAA that none of the enrolled inmates have returned to prison after their release.

For those formerly incarcerated, entering the job field with coding and design knowledge is a valuable skill. About 46% of people say that a website’s design is their top consideration when determining a company’s credibility. With importance like this, web design and coding will probably grow.

Tommy Winfrey, who was released several weeks ago after serving a 20-year murder sentence, said in a statement to WFAA that this opportunity opens doors that otherwise would be closed. WFAA reports that he created a website that lets prisoners sell their artwork.

“Coding gives me this dream — this dream that I can be successful,” he said. “You can actually create anything you can dream up.”

WFAA reports that another inmate, Aly Tamboura, saw that Winfrey and others in the program seemed to have a better disposition. Inspired, he chose to join as well.

“You look at these guys and see that they were shining on the prison yard,” he said in a statement to WFAA. “They were different than the rest of the guys. When I saw that, I had to get involved.”

According to the Prison Policy Initiative there are currently 2.3 million people being help in various types of jails in the United States. The National Institute of Justice reports that about two-thirds of these individuals are arrested again within three years. Parenti told WFAA that job skills are necessary for lowing repeat offender statistics.

“They’ve served their time,” she said. “We believe having a job is the key to successful reentry and breaking the cycle of incarceration and that’s why we teach skills that are specific to jobs that are in high demand.”

Web design in particular is a highly desired skill set to have, as 57.7% of small and medium sized business owners plan to invest in a new website. Winfrey said in a statement to WFAA that having this skill is not an opportunity that many inmates get to have.

“Most people in prison learn a vocation. It’s all blue collar jobs,” he said. “This is the only white collar job or trade I’ve ever heard of being taught in an institution. I think coding can be my bridge back into the community.”

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