MC Hammer joining governor to unveil prison coding program

April 5, 2018

Gov. Eric Holcomb is set to launch a program that teaches inmates at the Indiana Women's Prison how to code. And you can't touch his guest list.

Due to attend Thursday afternoon's ribbon-cutting event in Indianapolis is hip-hop recording artist MC Hammer, a board member for the not-for-profit that will help implement the coding class at the prison.

The program to be unveiled Thursday will provide software engineering skills that might lead to potential jobs in the technology sector—such as web developers and designers—to the female offenders. Those in the program are expected to be prepared for such jobs upon release.

Holcomb has included the program in his agenda to develop a skilled workforce in Indiana.

The plan is adopted from a California-based not-for-profit program called The Last Mile. Last Mile co-founder Beverly Parenti will join Hammer, Holcomb and Indiana Correction Commissioner Robert Carter at the ceremony.

Indiana is the first state outside of California to adopt The Last Mile program, which was launched in 2014 at San Quentin.

The event will also feature Kenyatta Leal, a former inmate at San Quentin State Prison in California, who participated in the program and was able to secure a paid internship and then a job in the tech industry upon release.

Hammer, who launched several businesses after hitting it big in the music industry, got involved with the organization because he said he believes in helping those who come from challenging backgrounds receive second chances.

Chris Redlitz, founder of The Last Mile, said in January that the program would cost Indiana "somewhere in the $200,000 range" for startup and then about $5,000 per inmate per year. The state plans to begin with one classroom of between 24 to 30 people, according to Redlitz.

If 30 people participated each year, that would equate to about $350,000 the first year and $150,000 each year afterward.

"It's a pretty good deal to get them employable," Redlitz said.

By 2020, the program should "help at least 1,000 Hoosier adults in our prison system earn certificates and credentials each year, so that they can secure high-demand, high-wage jobs upon release,” he said.

The main goal is to cut the state’s recidivism rate. The percent of people who are recommitted to the Indiana Department of Corrections within three years of their release date for a new conviction or violation of post-release supervision is 37 percent.

Located on the northwest side of Indianapolis, the Indiana Women’s Prison is a maximum-security facility that has an average daily population of about 600 people.



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