Google Gives Big Boost to Prison Coding Program

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(photo courtesy of Google.org) (photo courtesy of Google.org)
PENDLETON -

A prison coding program that was introduced to Indiana earlier this year is getting a boost. Google.org has announced a $2 million grant to California-based nonprofit The Last Mile, which provides technology and business skills training for inmates. The funding will support, in part, the launch of Indiana's first coding program for incarcerated juveniles at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility.

The Indiana juvenile program is The Last Mile's first youth program outside of California. In an interview with Inside Indiana Business, The Last Mile co-founder Chris Redlitz says it is important to serve all populations, including men, women and young people. 

"It's specifically important for us to try to address issues of incarceration very early on in life," said Redlitz. "So if we can potentially help change some lives early, it's critically important. The youth facilities generally are 17 to 23-years-old, so they're still at a very formative age and if we can start directing some of those hopes and dreams and a path into technology, which many of these folks have not had any exposure to, I think it's really critical."

The Last Mile began its first Indiana program in April at the Indiana Women's Prison in Indianapolis. The grant from Google.org will also support new equipment for students and instructors at that program, including computers, electronic devices and audio-visual equipment.

In addition to the grant, Google has announced some of its software engineers, user experience researchers and program managers will volunteer their time to review The Last Mile's adult coding program and adapt it for young people. That will include creating a virtual lecture series enabling inmates to learn directly from industry veterans, which Redlitz says will be an important factor as the nonprofit looks to grow nationally.

The grant was announced Tuesday at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility. Governor Eric Holcomb was among those in attendance.

"I am beyond thrilled to be growing this life-changing program," Holcomb said in a news release. "Now with the help of Google.org, even more offenders will leave prison able to return to the workforce with the valuable skills world class companies like Google are looking for. The Last Mile program really starts the first mile of the rest of their new life."

Redlitz says the nonprofit's goal is to take the program and make it a national model by putting it in 50 classrooms over the next five years. The Google.org grant is also support the expansion of the program into Oklahoma and Kansas in 2019.

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