There are pros and cons to training programs in prisons. You begin with a captive audience (pun intended). The folks inside, who have nothing else to do, are attending classes you are giving and are motivated to do well because if they don’t, they go back to what they were doing before….nothing. So attention and focus are present, but there are also significant cons to working inside a prison: internet access is limited if non-existent, there’s tons of internal red tape, and relationships with wardens and prison guards all have to be negotiated.
There’s a lot to manage. Think about it: a prison guard making a low salary is guarding women in prison who are training to receive jobs that pay nearly twice as much as the ones who are guarding them? That’s bound to create resentments and issues in prison relationships. How do we do we manage that? And what about the current culture within any prison? Every facility is going to have its own culture based on the warden; we’ll have to be flexible and prepared for anything.
Then there are transitional centers, something I didn’t know even existed until a few weeks ago. Transitional centers are a kind of midway program offered to certain offenders to help ease their return to outside life. Women in transitional centers have a bit more daily flexibility: they are allowed to have jobs outside the center but must return to it every evening by a certain time. Transitional centers are often, though not exclusively, on prison grounds. The women who live in them still have tests to undergo: breathalyzers every evening and random drug testing. The center itself may not be as regulated as a jail but make no mistake: it is a prison. The women inside are not free.
But Code/Out, why bother dealing with all of that institutional hassle? What about teaching women after they get out of prison? Why not do that? We are researching that method, but it comes with its own set of complications. We think of a woman who’s just out of prison: she has the responsibilities of motherhood thrust back upon her, she’s working a very low-paying job, her hours are few and full. What is the likelihood that that person will also attend a night class to learn how to code? We of course believe that might be possible with the right social support, childcare and flexibility of training and learning—women are bosses–but it wouldn’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination. Could we be of more service to that woman by providing her with that skill-set before she leaves prison?
Getting creative and being able to deal with state systems as they are won’t be an easy challenge. These systems aren’t fair and don’t provide a lot of room for rehabilitation. We know our goal it is not impossible; just a pain in the royal ass!
Code/Out is looking at all the options to sort through which might be more useful. Our current focus is providing support to women in transitional centers to enable them to support themselves and their families. As we move forward, we know that the biggest hurdle we face is financial support. Like any non-profit, gaining the funds we need to get off the ground is always on our minds. Join us as we move forward on this venture – make a donation today so that we might have the option for a thriving organization in the future.