Go Inside the Classroom Where San Quentin Inmates Are Learning to Code

Slide: 1 / of 1 . Caption: The men in the program make $16.77 an hour—not much by Silicon Valley standards. But the real goal is to help them land jobs once they’re out. Cait Oppermann

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  • Author: Issie Lapowsky. Issie Lapowsky personal frontiers Business
  • Date of Publication: 11.02.16. 11.02.16
  • Time of Publication: 6:55 am. 6:55 am

Inside the Classroom Where San Quentin Inmates Learn to Code

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Slide: 1 / of 9 Caption: Caption: At San Quentin State Prison in California, inmates are barred from using the internet, but a new project offers a chance for them to take part in the tech tranformations they might otherwise have missed.Cait Oppermann
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Slide: 2 / of 9 Caption: Caption: The Last Mile Works is a full-fledged web development shop where inmates help build apps and other software for everyone from tiny startups to established companies like Airbnb.Cait Oppermann
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Slide: 3 / of 9 Caption: Caption: The men in the program make $16.77 an hour—not much by Silicon Valley standards. But the real goal is to help them land jobs once they’re out. Cait Oppermann
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Slide: 4 / of 9 Caption: Caption: San Quentin’s dev shop is the brainchild of Chris Redlitz, a venture capitalist who founded the Last Mile as a nonprofit in 2010 to offer inmates entrepreneurial training.Cait Oppermann
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Slide: 5 / of 9 Caption: Caption: Working with the coding school Hack ­Reactor, Redlitz spun up a tech incubator inside the prison called Code.7370 (after the government classification number for software companies).Cait Oppermann
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Slide: 6 / of 9 Caption: Caption: Inmates learn Java­Script, Python, and WordPress before presenting their portfolios at a Demo Day. By year’s end, the program will be active in three additional prisons.Cait Oppermann
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Slide: 7 / of 9 Caption: Caption: The Last Mile Works gives Code.7370 grads a way to get real-world experience on the inside.Cait Oppermann
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Slide: 8 / of 9 Caption: Caption: Because they can’t use the Internet, the dev shop’s coders work on a closed network, and a manager pushes the results to the outside. Any money the shop makes is funneled back into the nonprofit.Cait Oppermann
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Slide: 9 / of 9 Caption: Caption: The door leading to the classroom where inmates learn to code.Cait Oppermann
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At San Quentin State Prison in California, inmates are barred from using the internet, and many have been serving time since before smartphones existed. But a new project offers a chance to take part in the tech transformations they might otherwise have missed. The Last Mile Works is a full-fledged web development shop where inmates help build apps and other software for everyone from tiny startups to established companies like Airbnb. The men in the program make $16.77 an hour—not much by Silicon Valley standards. But the real goal is to help them land jobs once they’re out.

The men in the program make $16.77 an hour—not much by Silicon Valley standards. But the real goal is to help them land jobs once they’re out. The men in the program make $16.77 an hour—not much by Silicon Valley standards. But the real goal is to help them land jobs once they’re out. Cait Oppermann

San Quentin’s dev shop is the brainchild of Chris Redlitz, a venture capitalist who founded the Last Mile as a nonprofit in 2010 to offer inmates entrepre­neurial training. Working with the coding school Hack ­Reactor, Redlitz spun up a tech incubator inside the prison called Code.7370 (after the government classification number for software companies). Inmates learn Java­Script, Python, and WordPress before presenting their portfolios at a Demo Day. By year’s end, the program will be active in three additional prisons.

The Last Mile Works gives Code.7370 grads a way to get real-world experience on the inside. Because they can’t use the internet, the dev shop’s coders work on a closed network, and a manager pushes the results to the outside. Any money the shop makes is funneled back into the nonprofit. The tech industry is the perfect fit for job seekers with unusual résumés, Redlitz says. “It’s about the quality of your work, not your back­ground.” Inmates can’t go online, but coding connects them to the 21st-century economy they’ll enter when they’re free.

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