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Indiana governor launches coding program for inmates

Gov. Eric Holcomb unveiled a computer coding training program Thursday at the Indiana Women’s Prison that he believes will teach inmates a valuable skill, reduce recidivism and save money.

The program, which launches Monday, will provide coding classes, mentorship and job placement services to the female inmates. Those in the program are expected to be prepared for employment in the technology sector upon release, including web development and design.

Holcomb said at a news conference that he has been thinking about how to reduce the “hundreds and millions of dollars” that the government has spent in prisons across the state, as well as bringing down the rate at which people return to prison. He pointed to the program, saying “this is the way to do it. It is the solution that everyone is looking for and it’s helping people.”

The Holcomb administration is hoping the program will be a model for Indiana’s 23 state prisons, which currently incarcerate more than 27,000 people.

About 37 percent of released prisoners were rearrested within three years of release, Indiana Department of Correction data shows. During the first year of release, 75 percent of the formerly incarcerated adults were unemployed.

“We have high hopes for this (program) and this is part of our work plan,” said DOC Commissioner Robert Carter. “What we really strive to do is to not just have hope for their release but to actually get that job offer before they even get out.”

The program is adopted from a California’s nonprofit program called The Last Mile, which has drawn praises from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

One board member for The Last Mile, 1990s rap star MC Hammer, joined Holcomb for the announcement.

The Last Mile co-founder Beverly Parenti said the program has been successful at San Quentin State Prison in California, where they first implemented the idea. She said it has shown no recidivism case and almost full employment among the graduates.

Indiana is the second state to adopt such a program.

Kenyatta Leal, a founding member of The Last Mile program, launched a tech career in San Francisco after serving 19 years in prison.

“I know there are a lot of people out there that don’t believe prison programs work,” Leal said at Thursday’s event. “I’m a living proof that they do.”

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