Arika Herron, Indianapolis Star
PENDLETON — Coding is a popular high school class — seen as a direct route to high-paying jobs in the booming tech sector — and starting next year it’s going to be offered to more young Hoosiers: incarcerated kids at Indiana’s Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility.
Indiana is extending The Last Mile, a California-based technology and business skills-training program for inmates, to the Pendleton facility with a grant from Google.org. Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the grant in Pendleton on Tuesday in front of a crowd of state officials, philanthropists, Google employees and Pendleton youths.
“I am beyond thrilled to be growing this life-changing program,” Holcomb said. “Now with the help of Google.org, even more offenders will leave prison able to return to the workforce with the valuable skills world class companies like Google are looking for. The Last Mile program really starts the first mile of the rest of their new life.”
“Education is the great equalizer,” Holcomb said.
Reaching incarcerated individuals is one piece of Holcomb’s larger effort to bolster Indiana’s workforce. In his last State of the State address, Holcomb pledged the state would graduate at least 1,000 inmates annually in certificate programs by 2020. The Last Mile is one small but growing piece of that. It’s expected to expand to other facilities in Indiana early next year.
Indiana is one of three states that will benefit from a $2 million Google.org grant to educate and certify 525 incarcerated youth, women and men over the next two years in a variety of business technology and soft-skills curriculum, including entrepreneurship, front-end coding, web and mobile app development and design, and quality assurance. The new programs will launch in Indiana, Oklahoma and Kansas in 2019.
In addition to the program at Pendleton, which started last week, the grant will cover new computers, electronic devices and audio visual equipment for students and instructors at the Indiana Women’s Prison. Another class of women are working their way through the first phase of the program now.
Research shows education can help reduce recidivism. Incarcerated individuals who participate in correctional education are 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who didn’t participate in any correctional education programs.
“This effort between Google.org and The Last Mile is a significant milestone,” said Beverly Parenti, executive director of The Last Mile. “The grant enables TLM to increase the number of citizens returning back to society with meaningful job skills and ultimately reducing recidivism.”
Call IndyStar education reporter Arika Herron at (317) 444-6077. Follow her on Twitter: @ArikaHerron.