The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Coding Skills For Inmates
You have probably already made your judgments and were probably not planning to continue reading this at all. You thought about closing it, but you were curious about what I was going to write. The headline surely gives most of it away: an article about opportunities for inmates.
If you are here because you are an inmate, an ex-convict, a former felon, my message to you is this: there are opportunities for you to succeed if your crime is petty or drug-related. Seek organizations that help ex-felons to find jobs. Take up coding courses which you can do with an Internet connection. Check out the Jobs That Hire Felons website, 70 Million Jobs, or HelpForFelons.org if you are struggling or preparing to re-enter the real world to become a productive and functioning member of society. Whatever you do, don’t become a statistic or feel that the only way you can survive is by living in the prison system or by turning to a life of crime. There are employers out there looking for you to fulfill job positions!
If you want to go further, I highly encourage you to get into design and development. Whether you want to take a few Udemy courses or Lynda courses or watch some YouTube videos, there is a process of learning, but once you do, you will have more opportunity than you will know. First and foremost, however, you will have to go through the process of not just having knowledge about coding, but knowing how to market yourself, even with your past history. That, of course, is not covered in this confession, but there are certainly ways to let your potential employer know that you are a changed person who is trying to make and live a better life.
Before I begin, let me start with why I wrote this article. Across my Facebook feed was an article called 11 Surprising Classes You Won’t Believe Inmates Can Take. In that article, I came across one particular organization that got my attention: an organization dedicated to helping inmates to learn code. Now before we touch upon the significance of inmates learning code, let us talk about what an inmate is. An inmate is almost always someone who is guilty and convicted of a crime. There are certainly instances where many months or years later, that inmate was actually found innocent, but corruption, false testimonials, or the inability to produce an alibi as well as the lack of funding for a good lawyer just happened to land that inmate in the prison system.
For the most part, however, we will conclude that these inmates are guilty but of often lesser crimes. Whether it was petty theft or drugs (48% of people in prison are in there for drug-related offenses), these people got caught and were tried and placed in jail. After they have served their time, they then find it hard because they are ostracized and instead of being treated as a human being trying to make it in the world, they are now carrying the label of “ex-convict”, “former criminal”, or “former felon”. For this reason, it is very hard to be alleviated of the stigmas that follow people who have served their time. Should they be given a second chance, especially if their crime may have been as menial as possession of marijuana?
For many years, the recidivism rate, the rate at which people are likely to commit crimes again is at 60%, has remained high and mostly the same. There are two ways to see this:
- 60% of former convicts are likely to commit a crime again because they are just prone to being criminals
- 60% of former convicts are put into a situation that forces them to commit a crime again in order to survive
When a person serves their time in prison and is released, but still treated with the stigma that they were not rehabilitated or are still a criminal, it only makes sense for them to begin feeling this way. This is also a similar situation to the glass half empty glass half full question. There are people who believe #1 is more factual, while there are people who believe #2 is more likely, as long as they have an opportunity.
There are several companies, including McDonalds, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster, who tend to overlook minor felonies, such as those of drug possession or other petty crimes, and hire ex-convicts, former felons, or people who have served their time, learned their lesson, and are trying to get back into the real world. These companies are truly doing a great service by giving these people a second chance.
That is where organizations like The Safer Foundation of Chicago or The Last Mile of California come in to help people who are struggling with life after prison. The Safer Foundation is the organization I volunteered for that helped with job placement, collaboration, and ensured people showed up to work on time or had rides to work. The Last Mile is another organization that focuses on helping inmates learn how to code.
While I will not get into depth of why coding is so important, I will say that coding can teach logic and help people to learn about computers, computer operations, business, marketing, branding, and entrepreneurship. There is a huge demand for programmers that goes unmet every year. There are over a dozen languages that are in demand and while there are plenty of programmers, there are just not enough to fill those empty positions; or new startups also may even be looking for programmers, or may even encourage a self-startup while working at home. Whatever the case, The Last Mile knows why coding is important and what it can do to help reduce the recidivism rate, through coding. Rather than give up on those we deem criminals, especially those ones who are usually first-time felons, it would be more valuable and safer for society to educate them and prepare them for the real world.
ADVICE FOR FORMER FELONS / CONVICTS
My personal advice that I live by everyday and that I leave you with if you are a former felon, or no matter who you are: Don’t get greedy.
Follow this advice and you will make it wherever you want to go. In other words, if you go and do some frontyard or backyard lawn work for someone, charge them for the day’s work, not a week’s work in a day. The majority of law-abiding citizens work everyday and usually bring home a paycheck that meets ends meat. Some people even play the lottery, hoping for some easy money, though the majority lose. The lottery has occasional winners, but if it were that easy, we would all win the lottery at least once. Chance for winning the lottery: You are standing in an area with about 175 million other people. Imagine that number in your head. 1:175,000,000. One of you has a chance of being called. As you know, with your luck, it is probably not going to be you, and with my luck, I know it is not going to be me, but godspeed for optimism.
It is more important to come back to reality and establish real obtainable goals for where you want to be in your life. For example, I have this goal to retire at 50 years old. How much do I need to retire at 50 years old? Probably my life now minus the mortgage plus whatever the amount Xfinity decides to charge for the 300 channels I rarely ever watch. What do I have to do to get there? How much money do I have to try and put away or make each year so that I can accomplish my goal? Will I want to take any vacations? What types of jobs exist that can help me reach this goal?
This is what you have to do too: set your goals and ensure they are realistic. Nothing is more disappointing than finding out your goals will only remain dreams. Be realistic about your own skills and talents and what you can do. If you suck at coding, but you are amazing at fixing cars, than you might make some money working as a mechanic for someone, but you will probably make more money as a partner or running your own shop. If you have no skills, than start figuring out what you like to do and find a skill that is valuable and worth something.
No matter what you do, always be fair with people. Regardless of whether your customers or clients or whoever you work for have more money than you, it does not mean you have the right to rip them off or feel that you deserve to have that money. There really is something that is rewarding when you actually earn enough money to make a living so you are content and comfortable. Going as far as happy? You can only be as happy as what you define as your own success.
Sure, I would love to wake up tomorrow, check my bank account, and see millions of dollars in there. There are some people who do it everyday. Definitely not me. I barely get to see any money ever, as I have to pay my mortgage and other bills every month. I choose the life of having a house and television and just a few other luxury items. There are certainly illegal ways to help you achieve your goals, but it always catches up to you, because nothing good ever comes from being greedy. Coming back to reality, there are other ways, legal ways, maybe slower, to obtain a million or more in my bank account.
Learning how to invest in the stock market is one of them or educating yourself enough to obtain a job where you have the opportunity to make $50,000 or more a year is another. Working for a company that has a 401k and socking away more than the default percentage per year is another way. The point is: If you are given a second chance at life, don’t throw it away or take it for granted. Don’t expect anything to be handed to you. Don’t expect society to feel sorry for you. Society doesn’t feel sorry for me and I would never want or expect it.
You know what life is like behind bars: For the fathers or mothers out there who have served time in prison, would you recommend jail to your child? Probably not. You probably want a better life for your children, a better one than you had. Guess what? Show them how to have a better life. Be a role model. It is the best way for them to learn, by seeing their parents do it. For those who don’t have children, you also have no excuse to break the law and turn to criminal activity except for the fact that you either got greedy or you are just lazy and want life to be easy for you.
Life is not easy for hardly anyone, but we all find our way through and we do it legally, and life does usually get better when anyone works at it. We are all dealt certain cards in life that we must learn how to play. Some of us are more advantaged than others, but learning how to live properly and without hurting others or yourself is a life well lived. Learning how to live by the rules society has in place usually, in most cases, leads to a better life for everyone. Live to better society. Work to make society better. A planet of law-abiding citizens is much better than a planet of immorality. Imagine living in the constant fear that most people have while serving their time in prison, always looking over your back or shoulder. You personally know that is not a good life.
While I do lock my door at night, I am happy to live in a society where people have mutual respect for each other, as most people are just minding their own business, dealing with their own day-to-day bullshit. They really don’t have time for anything else. I know I don’t. I am competent to go to work and earn an honest paycheck. Yes, I could complain about all the taxes they take from me, but that is for another confession. If having to pay those taxes is what helps society remain somewhat stable, than it may just be a fair trade.
The websites, Jobs That Hire Felons, 70 Million Jobs, HelpForFelons.org, and many more on the web like those, were likely created by former felons or former convicts who were denied employment or unable to get work. Instead of crying about it and turning to their former lives once again, they did something different: They decided to be productive and help others like them who were struggling. Learn your purpose in the world after prison. You are not the person you were. Take what you learned and what you know and share it with others and better yourself. You are out of prison now. Prove to the world that you are not a statistic and that you don’t have to be. Show the world that you are a changed person. You have been given a second chance. It is you who gets to decide what you will do with your second chance.