According to a recent Brennan Center report, nearly 7.7 million people currently living in America have been imprisoned. Those individuals earn 52% less than if they had they never been in prison. This disparity contributes to a cycle of poverty that affects not only the formerly incarcerated, but also their families. And boys raised in families that are in the bottom 10% of income are 20 times more likely to be incarcerated themselves.
How can we begin to address this societal problem? One innovative program, Justice Through Code (JTC), at Columbia University aims to change this trajectory. The program, a partnership between the Center for Justice and the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, teaches students coding and important job skills, including how to write a resume, respond to business emails, and prepare for job interviews.
Aedan Macdonald, Justice Through Code’s founder and program manager, saw that teaching coding to formerly incarcerated people could provide them with useful, and needed, job skills.
“When you leave prison, there’s this constant messaging that your life is over and the best thing that you can hope for is a minimum wage job,” said Macdonald. “We have to get people into career track jobs where they’re able to break the cycle of poverty, and learning to code is one way to do it.”