Successful Prison Coding Program Coming to Indiana

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Former San Quentin inmate Kenyatta Leal says the program helped him "transform my hustle." Former San Quentin inmate Kenyatta Leal says the program helped him "transform my hustle."

Indiana is the second state in the nation to use a prison inmate coding program that has drawn praise from the likes of the Obama administration and Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) founder Mark Zuckerberg. The Last Mile founder Chris Redlitz says, while many states approached the California-based organization, he believes Indiana truly "understood our mission." The program offers coding classes to inmates as well as mentorship and job placement services after their release.

One of the founding members of The Last Mile, Kenyatta Leal, served 19 years in prison for being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. He says he was initially reluctant to ask for help, but the program allowed him to "transform my hustle." He says the skills training allowed him to channel his entrepreneurial spirit in a positive direction.

Redlitz says Governor Eric Holcomb has been "hugely supportive" of the program. Holcomb says the "results speak for themselves" in California. He says the initiative plays into the workforce development component of his Next Level Agenda for 2018.

The Last Mile launched its computer coding curriculum in 2014. The courses teach HTML, JavaScript, CSS and Python, and will ultimately expand to include web and logo design, data visualization and UX/UI. Organizers tell Inside INdiana Business Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman inmates can only participate if they have no infractions, and can earn money in the program so they have some savings upon release.

Indiana reports more than 25,000 inmates in its state prisons, and the unemployment rate among formerly-incarcerated adults one year after release is 75 percent. The program is underway with coding classes at the Indiana Women's Prison.

Redman will feature this story this weekend on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.

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