I recently came across a blog project run by volunteers at the infamous San Quentin prison in California. The blog is part of The Last Mile, which calls itself a “startup accelerator program” and claims to “train selected inmates for eventual employment in a paid internship program within the Silicon Valley technology sector.” It teaches prisoners “specific skills related to verbal and written communication, business formation and operation, presentation skills, and computer proficiency.” This doesn’t seem much different from the promises made by CEO and STRIVE, the organizations I visited several years ago while I was researching my book. What all the “work readiness programs” I encountered have in common is that they do not (and maybe cannot) prepare the men for what awaits them in the actual world. The Last Mile website is sort of cluttered, and I couldn’t find out how exactly the organization prepares the men for the myriad challenges of the “outside” job market—background checks, minimum wage labor (if lucky), discrimination, and a highly competitive and rapidly changing technological field, to name just a few—but I hope that it will be able to prove its successes in an independent study.
What I find interesting about The Last Mile is its concept of blog posts written from behind bars. (The organization also has a Twitter account with the handle @TLM that features tweets from behind bars.) From my correspondences with prisoners and ex-prisoners I know that time moves excruciatingly slowly when you’re locked up, and I find it thought-provoking to contrast this slow-moving, inverted world with our fast-moving, ephemeral digital world.