Prisoners to be taught coding in £1.2m government scheme

CODE 4000 pilot aims to help under-represented groups get jobs as developers

Photo: Pixabay

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is funding CODE 4000, an organisation that works with vetted offenders, to expand an existing scheme to teach prisoners coding to prepare them for work.

DCMS has awarded £100,000 to the project which will also fund an new employment hub in Sheffield, providing support, mentoring and training for graduates once they have left prison. It forms part of the government’s plans to invest £1.2m to help underrepresented groups get digital jobs.

The CODE 4000 project is modelled on the Last Mile project in San Quentin prison in California, which has claimed to have helped almost 500 offenders, and has has a 0% reoffending rate among participants – well below the US national average reoffending rate of 55%.

Offenders take part in a four-stage programme. Initially, they will enter a training phase where they will learn the basics of HTML, CSS and JavaScript, before moving on to Git, TDD, MVC, databases and full stack development.

The second stage will enable those who passed the initial phase to work on real-world projects for external clients, which will also provide a modest income to the project. The third stage will see them working for clients in the real world on temporary day release and the final stage aims to help them find full-time employment as developers, with the Sheffield employment hub supporting their move.

The courses are led by volunteers and industry experts. CODE 4000 has a successful trial at HMP Humber, and the aim is to expand the scheme to HMP Holme House and reach more than a thousand more offenders.

In the UK, the government has launched the Education and Employment Strategy, which aims to create a system where prisoners are set on a path to employment from the outset in order to tackle reoffending, which costs society around £15bn per year.

“The government is committed to stopping the cycle of reoffending and a valuable asset to prevent recidivism is employment,” said digital minister Margot James.

“Equipping offenders with coding skills will help them into life-changing work and give them a path to a hugely rewarding career.

“We have a world-leading digital economy and this new funding will help keep people out of prison so they can give back to their local communities as well as be a boost for our tech businesses.”

Prisons minister Rory Stewart said he believes Code 4000 is an excellent example of what can be achieved through education and training in prison.

“It not only helps offenders turn their lives around but also benefits society by reducing the chances of their reoffending, and I am delighted to see it receive this further funding,” he said.

PublicTechnology staff

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