MC Hammer to help start coding class in Indiana jail today

Women enrolled in The Last Mile, board member MC Hammer, center, and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, top right, pose for a class photo celebrating the first coding class in as part of The Last Mile program at Indiana Women's Prison on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Indiana is the first state outside of California to adopt the program.

Women at Indiana Prison for Women get a second chance with a new computer coding course.

Governor Eric Holcomb and hip-hop artist MC Hammer celebrated the first 14-person computer coding class in Indiana on Thursday during a jail ribbon cut.

Holcomb introduced the program to Indiana as part of its 2018 legislative agenda to give incarcerated women a chance to learn coding and prepare to re-enter the workforce upon release with a new set of skills. precious.

The idea is both to reduce recidivism and to create a more qualified workforce. Holcomb said there are already employers interested in hiring offenders who return to the workforce after completing the course.

“We not only believe in the program, but we believe in you,” Holcomb told the prisoners. “And we share your aspirations, and it’s our purpose to be here to make sure you have the resources to help you determine what your destiny will be.”

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In Indiana, nearly 37 percent of inmates released in 2013 were returned to Indiana Corrections within three years, and 75 percent are unemployed one year after release.

The last mile program was first used in San Quentin Prison in California for the purpose of teaching prisoners employable skills.

Kenyatta Leal was among the first to graduate and landed a paid internship at a San Francisco-based tech company when he left prison. He went from a 25-year sentence to a life sentence to now take a leadership role in the San Francisco company.

“Making changes inside a prison is not easy, but I can tell you right away, I am living proof that it is possible,” Leal said.

None of the inmates who have taken the course so far have returned to prison after their release, and all have found employment.

Indiana is now the second state to use The Last Mile program, but its founders Chris Redlitz and Beverly Parenti hope to extend it to all 50 states, on one condition: Half of the classes must be made up of women to balance the industry. .

And what does MC Hammer have to do with all of this? He sits on the board of The Last Mile program and has promised women that the program is legitimate.

“It’s not smoke and mirrors, no flashing lights,” Hammer said. “The movements 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, these loose pants with a low crotch and tapered at the ankles, suitable for hip-hop dance.

Stacy Orue, one of the inmates at the prison, said she hopes to become a web developer and eventually an entrepreneur, helping troubled youth. She has been in the women’s prison for 15 years, so she has little experience using websites, but has already learned some web design concepts.

“It’s so inspiring when the governor said with his own lips that there would be people looking for me for a job. (It) blew me away, ”Orue said. “I am a hard worker and have worked very hard for change, but knowing that I might be accepted back into the company after 15 years is overwhelming.”

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Call IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange at (317) 432-9270. Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.

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