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Silicon Valley Turns Prisoners Into Programmers at San Quentin

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Inmate Nelson Butler, right, takes a coding class at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, CA.

A new program seeks to teach inmates at San Quentin State Prison the basics of computer coding.

Credit: Martin E. Klimek/USA TODAY

Hack Reactor, a San Francisco-based programming boot camp, has launched Code.7370, a program in which inmates at San Quentin State Prison will learn the basics of computer coding.

The program's goal is that in six months, inmates will have the coding skills to work as entry-level Web developers.

California has one of the U.S.'s largest prison populations and one of the highest rates of recidivism. Code.7370 is one of a growing number of initiatives designed to address the challenge of helping former inmates become successful members of society.

At the end of the course, inmates present their ideas in five-minute pitches to dozens of Silicon Valley investors and executives. For example, one student developed an idea for a mobile app that directs first responders to the location of underground utilities.

Code.7370, believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., was developed by Chris Redlitz and Beverley Parenti, who have been teaching entrepreneurship to inmates through a nonprofit program called the Last Mile. When paroled, Last Mile graduates are given paid internships at high-tech startups.

Redlitz says beyond teaching coding skills, the program enables participants to believe "they are worthy of having a job and contributing to society when they get out."

From USA Today
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