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D.C. Inmates Take MIT Coding Course, Hope For Good Tech Jobs

Rochell Crowder, after almost four decades of crimes that landed him in and out of jail, has completed a computer science course taught by PhD candidates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Crowder, 57, who pleaded guilty to armed robbery in 2020, was one of 16 men who enrolled in the course while detained at the Washington, D.C., jail, as part of a new 12-week program called Brave Behind Bars from the Educational Justice Institute at MIT. The program brought computer science education to the facility, adding to the suite of educational services that experts hope will better prepare detainees for reentry. The course, taught twice a week over Zoom, also was offered to women incarcerated in Maine, reports the Washington Post.

“The level of 21st century technology skills they just learned, I can’t do those things,” said Amy Lopez of the D.C. Department of Corrections. “They are transferrable, employable skills.” She added that it is rare for a jail or prison to provide detainees with an opportunity to use the internet or interact with people held in different states. The program, which started with a pilot last summer in New England, teaches basic coding languages like JavaScript and HTML in hopes of opening the door for detainees to pursue high-paying jobs. Founders said they are in conversation with local universities and national tech companies about offering college credit or entry-level jobs to future graduates. Representatives from Microsoft, Howard University and Georgetown University attended a graduation ceremony last week.

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