‘The Last Mile’ program launching at Indiana prison aims to teach inmates to code

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - A program launched Tuesday will teach Hoosier inmates how to code to help them secure jobs once they are released. 'The Last Mile' has already had success in California. Now, it's expanding to another state for the first time.

To start off, the program will be established at the Indiana Women's Prison, with hopes for expansion to other prisons.  D'Antonette Burns has been incarcerated for ten years. She said she was excited to learn she would have access to this opportunity.

"Anything that can help better myself,  I’m willing to try it," Burns said. 

CBS4 was there as the women at the prison took part in a question and answer session with the team from The Last Mile. Burns said she wants to try something new as she plans for her life after she's released.

"I just want to ensure I am good and my family is good," she said. "I want to be able to provide for them and for myself and not come back to prison."

The program puts inmates in a classroom setting to work on computers. They learn the ins and outs of coding -- which is what is required to build websites and apps.

Governor Eric Holcomb said he hopes this gives people a second chance and a path to a high-paying job.

"A program like this that checks every box that truly allows individual to determine their own destiny," Holcomb said. "We have to make sure we are skilling up appropriately and coding is going to be a big part of growing our tech eco-system." 

Currently, 37 percent of Indiana's convicted criminals end up re-offending. The goal is that the coding program will gear people toward solid jobs so they do not end up back behind bars. In California, The Last Mile is in  five prisons and the numbers speak for themselves.

"In over seven years of the program, we have not had one re-offender," said Chris Redlitz, founder of The Last Mile. "So, it works."

Kenyatta Leal is part of those statistics. He was an inmate at San Quentin in California when he went through the coding program. Now, he works for a San Francisco-based technology company.

"I went to prison in 1994 before the internet really took off  so I knew nothing about cell phones  or the internet," Leal said. "I learned all this through the program." 

The program will include 24 inmates for the first cohort. The team from The Last Mile plans to return to Indianapolis in about 30 days to start interviewing the inmates who are interested in participating.

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