Why I teached prisoners to code

During the Seattle Interactive Conference (#SIC16) David Almeida inspired the audience with a frank and open discussion about an amazing program his group (Unloop) is spearheading that teaches inmates software coding skills.

Unloop has stumbled upon an incredibly valuable yet untapped resource: the knowledge-hungry minds and passionate hearts of the incarcerated.

These men and women who lack access to the internet behind prison walls learn to code complex software and robotics by reading jargon-heavy textbooks in their cells.  Inmates get to practice what they’ve learned a few times each month when Unloop volunteers arrive to offer a their time teaching programming lessons and facilitating computer activity.

Even with minimal resources, time, and interaction, prisoners have been able to create incredible software while gaining solid skill sets that can be used for job placement or entrepreneurship when released.

I continue to work closely with the Unloop team teaching inmates to program mini robots in an order to help them understand the basics of coding.  The experience was beyond fulfilling, and I experienced first-hand the enthusiasm and hunger for knowledge that the inmates embody.

Currently Unloop is seeking out volunteers, donations, and tech organizations that are willing to give released inmates a second chance by offering certifications, support, or placement in the tech industry.

Unloop’s prison to tech pipeline is a massively successful initiative with an inmate waiting list of several dozen in WA alone.  By feeding the hungry minds of those behind bars with technical coding knowledge, David and his team offers hope where many believe they are forgotten.

To support the incredible work Unloop is doing, visit them at: www.un-loop.org

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