Completing the Purposeful Living Units Serve (PLUS) program was pivotal for me. Offered to women at Indiana’s Rockville prison, PLUS is a cognitive behavioral therapy program that initiated my self-understanding, reflection, and mindset transformation journey.

Not long after, I came across a flyer for The Last Mile. Initially mistaking it for a medical coding course, I was thrilled to learn it was a web development program. Before life’s detour, I’d enjoyed crafting a blog on WordPress and aspired to become a graphic designer in high school. The Last Mile promised to be a significant leap towards that dream, offering both education and tech training.

The Economic and Societal Benefits of Prison Education

Before I share the details of my journey, let me explain why these educational opportunities in prison are so critical.

The U.S. ranks sixth in global prison populations, with five in every 1,000 individuals incarcerated. This results in a staggering annual cost of $182 billion for taxpayers, covering prison housing, law enforcement, judiciary, health care, and more. With many of these inmates being re-offenders, several states are pivoting to education and workforce training to cut recidivism and associated costs. After all, studies show that investing in prison education and training fosters safer communities and brings tangible economic benefits.

Organizations like Televerde, Televerde Foundation, and The Last Mile are pioneers in helping to build the prison-to-workforce pipeline, recognizing the untapped talent within this community long before anyone else. Their efforts today are echoed by esteemed business leaders such as Richard Branson, Jamie Dimon, Charles Koch, and others who understand the immense potential of this initiative.

So that’s the why. Now, let’s address the how.

Navigating the Complexities of Web Development

Full disclosure: web development was a challenge. But, akin to the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes, each struggle became a stepping stone for my progression. With its logic-driven structure and meticulous details, JavaScript transformed my thinking process. Through patience, grit, and countless trials, I began to crack the code, celebrating small victories when my solutions started to work.

While prison isn’t an ideal learning space, it was where I found my classroom. With restricted access to resources, we relied on a Learning Management System, static web resources like DevDocs and Stack Overflow, and a few essential books. Despite the constant noise and distractions of prison life, the allure of web development made everything else recede, replaced by the rhythm of coding challenges and project designs.

The effort and hard work culminated in my capstone project: a coding Jeopardy game. A testament to my journey, the game reflected the logic and creativity that web development had instilled in me. The sense of accomplishment was profound, and the project’s 98% score and commendation were the icing on the cake.

My web development skills paved the way for more opportunities within prison walls. From creating a unique game for Televerde’s New Hire graduation to serving today as the company’s website specialist, web development has become an integral part of my life.

Staying informed about the latest trends in web development can be difficult when you’re not plugged into the digital world. I found my workaround through LinkedIn and the support of my colleagues, who share interesting updates and articles.

To anyone interested in pursuing web development while navigating a similar journey, I say this: embrace the challenge, persevere through the hard times, and grow with each trial. Web development is a community, not a competition. It’s an incredible opportunity that opens up numerous doors in the ever-evolving tech industry. Your path may differ, but the destination has prospects and opportunities.

A Call for Greater Investment from the Business Community

I’m currently incarcerated alongside countless talented and capable women. Every day, I witness their determination and drive, yet opportunities for us to transform our lives remain scarce. The incarcerated community, rich in potential, often goes unnoticed.

Business leaders, I urge you to recognize this untapped reservoir of talent. Many of us can rise above our past and contribute significantly to various industries with the right opportunities. Web development is just one domain where we can excel, but we need broader avenues, more inclusive programs, and a genuine belief in our capacity to change and grow.

Venturing beyond traditional hiring practices to invest in the potential within prison walls doesn’t just offer a second chance; it enriches industries with fresh perspectives and skills.

From the confines of a prison cell to the vast digital realm, my journey underscores the human spirit’s ability to overcome, adapt, and excel. The bars that once limited me are now replaced by lines of code, each symbolizing resilience and purpose. As I move forward, I carry technical skills, hope, and a message: Every starting point, no matter how challenging, can lead to a brighter path ahead.

April Boswell is incarcerated at the Rockville Correctional Facility in Indiana. She is a website specialist for Televerde, a global revenue creation partner supporting marketing, sales, and customer success for B2B businesses around the world.

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