If the walls of San Quentin State Prison could talk, they would have endless stories to tell of those who’ve come and gone through the system. They’d likely speak of those who’ve spent their lives in and out of prison and the mistakes that would define the lives of thousands of Californians.
Those walls would also speak of those fortunate enough to overcome the obstacles of reentry and never return to prison again. Thanks to organizations such as The Last Mile, that number is growing.
The Last Mile teaches inmates coding, web development and software development to give returning citizens marketable and lucrative skills. Built on the principles of unlocking potential and breaking the cycle of recidivism, The Last Mile provides training and real-world experience to those still in prison so they return to society with a working portfolio.
That simple idea has grown beyond the walls of San Quentin in just a few short years. Facilities in California, Indiana, Kansas and Oklahoma now use The Last Mile’s resources to prepare those serving time in prison for information technology jobs once they’re released. Kenyatta Leal is living proof this training works.
Leal spent more than 20 years in prison for mistakes made as a much younger man. With the training and mentoring he received, he now serves as a business development strategist for The Last Mile. He spends his time giving back to the organization that helped him successfully reenter his community.
“It’s fiscally unsustainable to continue wasting resources on simply locking people up,” Leal said at a recent summit put on by Stand Together. “The Last Mile helped me pave the road from a really bad decision to a really great life.”
The Last Mile believes having a job is the key to breaking the cycle of recidivism. So far, it has worked with 460 students, 60 of whom now have full time jobs or are in higher education. Graduates of their coding program inside San Quentin are able to work for private businesses during incarceration and earn the highest wage in any U.S. prison work program while building a resume of skills. So far, none of The Last Mile’s returning citizens have reoffended.
The Last Mile is one of dozens of organizations focused on second chances and breaking the cycle of recidivism. They’ve unlocked the incredible potential of Kenyatta Leal and many others ready to successfully rejoin society.