Officials celebrated the beginning of The Last Mile, a program designed to teach inmates at the Indiana Women’s Prison coding skills they can use once they are released. Founded in 2010, Indiana is the first state outside of California to adopt the San Francisco-based non-profit that has seen 100 percent of its graduates secure employment upon release with a zero percent recidivism rate.
The significance of Thursday’s ribbon cutting at the Indiana Women’s Prison was not lost on Kenyatta Leal, a founding member of The Last Mile. As a former inmate himself after spending 19 years in San Quentin State Prison, Leal says he is "living proof" that this coding program works.
"I think this is a very special moment in history not just for our program but for the state of Indiana," said Leal. "Teaching people leaving incarcerated settings 21st century job skills is really important."
When asked if he thinks The Last Mile will be successful in Indiana, Leal emphatically said, "I have no doubt." He credits support from the state’s local government, particularly Governor Eric Holcomb, the department of corrections and backing from the business community in helping make this a reality.
One of the 14 inmates chosen for the inaugural class of the coding program is 25-year-old Chardae Avery. Avery, who was incarcerated in 2014 for causing a fatal car accident, says she wants to use The Last Mile program to honor the man who died in the crash.
"Knowing that my life isn’t wasted just because his life was lost," said Avery. "I can keep going, and remember him, and carry him with me in a positive way. Every positive step I take is for him. It’s not for me."
Avery will likely be released from prison at the end of the program’s first cohort, which will last a full year. She says her dream is to one day become a video game developer.
"I never stop trying no matter how hard the challenge is. I’m ready to hit the ground running, and complete anything I start," said Avery. "There is no stopping me."
The first coding class will begin Monday.