MC Hammer helps celebrate inaugural computer coding class at Indiana prison
Women in the Indiana Women’s Prison are getting a second chance, thanks to a new computer coding course.
Gov. Eric Holcomb and hip-hop recording artist MC Hammer celebrated the inaugural 14-person computer coding class in Indiana Thursday during a ribbon cutting at the prison.
Holcomb brought the program to Indiana as part of his 2018 legislative agenda in order to give incarcerated women a chance to learn how to code, and prepare to reenter the workforce upon release with a new valuable skill set.
The idea is both to decrease recidivism and create a more skilled workforce. Holcomb said there are already employers interested in hiring the offenders that return to the workforce after completing the course.
“We believe not just in the program, but we believe in you,” Holcomb told the prisoners. “And we share your aspirations, and it is our purpose for being here to make sure that you have the resources so that you do get to determine what your destiny is going to be.”
In Indiana, nearly 37 percent of inmates released in 2013 were recommitted to the Indiana Department of Corrections within three years, and 75 percent are unemployed one year after their release.
— Henry Holcomb (@FirstDogHenry) April 5, 2018
The Last Mile program was first used in the San Quentin prison in California in an attempt to teach the prisoners employable skills.
Kenyatta Leal was among the first to graduate from the course and landed a paid internship at a San Francisco-based technology company when he left the prison. He went from having a 25 years to life sentence to now serving in a management capacity at the San Francisco company.
“Making change inside a prison isn’t easy, but I can tell you right now, I’m living proof that it is possible,” Leal said.
None of the inmates who have completed the course so far have returned to prison after release, and all have landed jobs.
Indiana is now the second state to use The Last Mile program, but its founders Chris Redlitz and Beverly Parenti hope to expand it to all 50 states, with one condition: half the classes need to consist of women to bring balance to the industry.
And what does MC Hammer have to do with any of this? He is on the board of The Last Mile program and promised the women that the program is legit.
“This is not a smoke and mirrors, no flashing lights,” Hammer said. “The moves are real.”
Hammer is best known for his early 1990s hits “U can’t touch this” and “2 legit 2 quit.” And his iconic Hammer pants, those baggy pants with a low crotch and tapered at the ankles, suitable for hip-hop dancing.
Stacy Orue, one of the inmates at the prison, said she hopes to be a web developer and eventually an entrepreneur, helping struggling young people. She’s been at the women’s prison for 15 years, so she has little experience using websites, but has already learned some web design.
“It is so inspiring when the governor said out of his mouth that there would be people seeking me for employment. (It) just completely floored me,” Orue said. “I’m a hard worker and I have worked very hard at change, but to actually know I could be accepted back into society after 15 years is overwhelming.”