Southern California

San Quentin Prisoners Will Get Paid for Coding Work

As part of an effort to help inmates become more prepared for life outside prison walls, a joint venture program will now be paying inmates at San Quentin for their technical work.

Turn 2 U, a non-profit organization designed to teach inmates coding and entrepreneurship skills, is partnering with the California Prison Industry Authority to help inmates gain employable skills and an income before they are released, according to a news release.

The organization has created partnerships with about eight companies that have agreed to outsource their coding jobs to the inmates of San Quentin. Turn 2 U’s design is based on the idea that the training courses will give prisoners experience that will help them re-enter a tech-dominant job market.

Chris Redlitz says he founded The Last Mile, the parent organization of Turn 2 U, in 2010 with a mission to help curb recidivism. According to Redlitz, keeping former inmates employed keeps them from re-offending, and could also cut the increasing cost of incarceration.

"I have never seen a greater amount of commitment, dedication and passion," Redlitz said of the seven inmates he currently works with at San Quentin. "They’re so focused on getting a fresh start."

Redlitz worked with Chuck Pattillo, General Manager of the California Prison Industry Authority, for this partnership. In his post, Pattillo has also stressed the importance of curbing recidivism among prison populations. Programs that work could save the state thousands.

Pattillo believes that this program is another success among the slew of other business programs in San Quentin, a training prison.

"The centers are pretty proud of what they’re doing, as they should be," Pattillo said.

The inmates that will start to earn a wage off of their work went through a year of training in the 7370 program, which specialized in vocational engineering training. If they completed the program successfully, they then earned a spot in RebootSQ, which eventually connected them to tech jobs.

The program is still growing, Redlitz said, and he is hoping that even more inmates and tech companies collaborate with the non-profit in the future. The Last Mile and Turn 2 U are currently expanding across the state, with plans to open at least three new locations in northern and southern California this year. 

"When we see guys gain the confidence to become part of a business company and realize that they can do it, it’s pretty amazing," Redlitz said. "These are people who were previously thought of as having no impact on society, and now they’re becoming companies’ best employees."

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