Google.org and The Last Mile Announce the Launch of New Coding Program in Michigan

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Kayla Conti

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Chris Gautz

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Google.org and The Last Mile Announce the Launch of New Coding Program in Michigan

The program, supported by Google.org, will teach front-end web development to incarcerated learners at Parnall Correctional Facility’s Vocational Village

Jackson, MI  –  Incarcerated individuals in Michigan will receive training in computer coding and front-end web development through a new program supported by Google.org and The Last Mile, which aims to provide marketable skills to those returning to their communities.

Using a $2 million grant from Google.org, it will be The Last Mile’s seventeenth classroom program in its fifth state. The grant will support the launch of Michigan’s first coding program at the Vocational Village at Parnall Correctional Facility with new computers, electronic devices and audiovisual equipment for students and instructors. This equipment will provide state-of-the-art learning in these facilities to enable students to be prepared for life after release.

“Michigan continues to set the national standard for criminal justice reform through innovative programs and partnerships at the Vocational Village,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist. “I’m proud to partner with Google and The Last Mile to create a space for future parolees to build the skills that will enable them to secure careers in high-demand jobs in the tech field.”

Over the next two years, The Last Mile (TLM) is expected to educate and certify 525 incarcerated youth, women, and men 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, in its prison classrooms. That includes this expansion to Parnall Correctional Facility’s Vocational Village.

“Our Vocational Village programs provide returning citizens with a valuable opportunity to learn in-demand skills that lead to meaningful, positive changes in their lives,” said Michigan Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington, who pioneered the Vocational Village concept. “This important partnership with Google.org and The Last Mile will give them an additional path to a stable career and a successful future.”

Research shows education is key to reducing 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 grant from Google.org allows us to extend our reach to Michigan and continues our efforts to educate incarcerated individuals,” said Beverly Parenti, co-founder and executive director of The Last Mile. “TLM strives to return its students to society with meaningful job skills. We are thrilled to be a part of Director Washington’s innovative Vocational Village.”

In addition to the $2 million grant, Google software engineers, user experience researchers, and program managers are volunteering their time to review The Last Mile’s adult coding program and adapt it for young people. They will also develop accessibility web development trainings and will create a virtual lecture series so Googlers can engage with classes of learners using Hangouts. These projects will help strengthen The Last Mile’s program offerings and give participants direct access to technologists working in the sector.

"Google.org is proud to stand by The Last Mile and Lt. Governor Gilchrist to share in this incredible moment,” says Maab Ibrahim, Criminal Justice Grants Manager for Google.org. “By expanding access to computer science education to people who are behind bars, The Last Mile helps learners return to their communities with tangible skills to pursue a career in technology. Over the next two years, The Last Mile will educate and certify over 500 incarcerated youth, women, and men across its prison classrooms. We are truly inspired by the individuals that have already completed The Last Mile’s training and look forward to the program’s expansion.”

Google.org takes a data-informed approach to philanthropy, working to understand how our contributions can have the greatest impact in areas like closing education gaps and improving the U.S. criminal justice system. Since 2013, Google.org has given more than $30 million to nonprofits advancing criminal justice reform and $60 million to organizations working to expand access to hands-on computer science learning.