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San Quentin Inmates Learn Technology From Silicon Valley Pros 109

Posted by timothy
from the information-flows-both-ways dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Washington Post reports that a rigorous, six-month training program launched by successful tech entrepreneurs for inmates in the decaying San Quentin State Prison is teaching carefully selected inmates the ins and outs of designing and launching technology firms, using local experts as volunteer instructors and the graduates, now trickling out of the penal system, are landing real jobs at real dot-coms. 'We believe that when incarcerated people are released into the world, they need the tools to function in today's high-tech, wired world,' says co-founder Beverly Parenti, who with her husband, Chris Redlitz, has launched thriving companies, including AdAuction, the first online media exchange. During twice-a-week evening lessons, students — many locked up before smartphones or Google— practice tweeting, brainstorm new companies and discuss business books assigned as homework. Banned from the Internet to prevent networking with other criminals, they take notes on keyboard-like word processors or with pencil on paper. The program is still 'bootstrapping,' as its organizers say, with just 12 graduates in its first two years and now a few dozen in classes in San Quentin and Twin Towers. But the five graduates released so far are working in the tech sector. 'This program will go a long way to not only providing these guys with jobs, but it is my hope that they hire people like them who have changed their lives and are now ready to contribute to society, pay taxes, follow the law, support their families,' says former California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation director Matthew Cate who adds he made the right decision to approve the training course. 'All those things contribute to the economy.'"
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San Quentin Inmates Learn Technology From Silicon Valley Pros

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  • Mixed bag (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    On one hand, we should be concentrating our resources on people who has not broken the law to the extent that we need to imprison them in order to protect society.

    On the other hand, most of the people we put in prison are not a danger to society at all and have simply run afoul of our Jerusalem Jesuit Judicial system.

    • by Pieroxy (222434)

      On one hand, we should be concentrating our resources on people who has not broken the law to the extent that we need to imprison them in order to protect society.

      On the other hand, most of the people we put in prison are not a danger to society at all and have simply run afoul of our Jerusalem Jesuit Judicial system.

      They are a danger to the Jerusalem Jesuit society my good man.

    • You should know how much incercaration cost to society...I'm not in the US and I can tell you the US pays a crapload of money for their prison. A small investment like this seems to be fair if you ask me. They choose their people who have more chance to graduate and in return, they pay taxes when they get out of prison, seems like a win-win situation to me
    • Nothing mixed about it.

      You can complain all you want that convicts shouldn't be getting stuff for free on your tax dime (never mind that you're already paying for their room and board anyway), but set aside your righteous indignation and think pragmatically.

      If you put a black mark on convicts perpetually, you're basically guaranteeing that they'll spiral into a life of crime. What other option do they have? And what good does that do society? You give them an education and opportunity, at least there's a

      • Wow, how nice it is to read a real thoughtful opinion. Now if we could just get more people on board with this kind of constructive thinking. God job, keep posting.
    • by PNutts (199112)

      On one hand, we should be concentrating our resources on people who has not broken the law to the extent that we need to imprison them in order to protect society.

      I think that's what we've been doing all along.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... that wants a job? GO PAY FOR EDUCATION!... oh you are not law abiding... let me pay for all the needed so you can get the job.

    This applies for most European countries aswell

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SuricouRaven (1897204)

      No need. There are plenty of lucrative job opportunities awaiting a released convict with outdated education.

      Mugger, burgler, car thief, drug dealer, extortionist...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by slashdime (818069)
      Were you not a child born into the world...

      ... naked, screaming, unknowing? To grow up into the adult you are now, did not YOUR PARENTS pay for your clothes, shelter, food, education, safety? Oh no, because you already had all that and you never needed help from anybody. And it's obvious everybody in jail also had those same advantages, they just chose to squander all that and it's not possible that they may have been backed into it at all.
    • by Kjella (173770)

      Are you a law abiding citizen that wants a job? GO PAY FOR EDUCATION!... oh you are not law abiding... let me pay for all the needed so you can get the job.

      This applies for most European countries aswell

      Everything except the non-criminals paying for it. Most tuition here is free, student loans typically come from cost of living. Granted you might say we're paying room and board, but as long as we intend to keep them prisoner we don't really have a choice about that. The greatest investment is really time and effort, if they're willing to spend their time in prison in a way that'll be productive when they get out that's great. I don't see how staring at the wall or pumping iron all day is going to help anyo

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      Don't worry, between all the H1-B visas, prisoner labor, outsourcing, etc. there's really not a lot of point in going to college anyway if your a native law-abiding citizen.

      • How long do people remain law-abiding when they can't get decent work and unemployment runs out? I do wonder about this sometimes.
    • by plover (150551)

      We're already paying a ton of money to keep these guys in jail - perhaps $4,000 per month. We know the rate of recidivism of an ordinary felon is about 60-70% in the first year out of prison. If you spent an additional $10,000 on an education for them, and this training serves to keep them out of jail for as little as six extra months before they commit another crime, it was money well invested as an overall cost savings. If they actually use this opportunity to turn their situation around and build a pr

      • I'm not necessarily asking you to provide them, but to anyone else who wants to touch the subject of discussing recidivism rates: large-scale studies from reputable sources or we won't believe you. Aside from that, you're ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.
        • by plover (150551) on Monday November 25, 2013 @11:44AM (#45514973) Homepage Journal

          The point of my post was not that recidivism rates are 60% or 80% or any specific value - making an estimate just helps to establish the threshold for cost savings. (If recidivism was zero, we wouldn't need this.) The point is that if this program reduces recidivism by any measurable amount then it is a net economic gain instead of some kind of "free government handouts for felons" as the OP was claiming.

          And yes, I think we're far better off providing free educations to people before they become criminals. But because we live in the real world, that doesn't always happen. If we simply ignore the damaged parts of society, they won't heal themselves.

          • by sgt_doom (655561)
            In a different context, in a different time, that might make some sense, but with the exponential increase in jobs offshoring (and for a beautiful and pithy example of this, read p. 139 of The Billionaire's Apprentic to capture the essence of Gupta and Diana Farrell at McKinsey & Company and McKinsey Global) and insourcing of foreign visa scab workers, the post is really both nebulous and arbitrary, in both the real and economic sense. It really will increase the crime, as criminals will break the law
    • by the_arrow (171557)

      ... that wants a job? GO PAY FOR EDUCATION!... oh you are not law abiding... let me pay for all the needed so you can get the job.

      This applies for most European countries aswell

      In Sweden all education is free, and up until a couple of years ago it was even free for foreign students.

  • These incarcerated felons will stand a much better chance of becoming productive members of society if they have job opportunities immediately upon release. These same extraordinary gentlemen are more likely by an order of magnitude to f*ck up than another applicant with no such resume.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      These same extraordinary gentlemen are more likely by an order of magnitude to f*ck up than another applicant with no such resume.

      There are basically 2 reactions for first-time offenders serving time:
      1. Whoa, I really screwed up. I need to clean up my act, and do what "the man" is telling me to do - get a job, stay legit, get away from friends or family who were trying to pull me into fights, drugs, etc.
      2. I'm a lost cause. Might as well have as much fun as I can before I get killed.

      Any sane public official wants more of the first reaction than the second, and the fact is that the primary difference will be whether the ex-con can get

    • by geek (5680)

      Yes, lots of HR departments in the Silicon Valley advertising for ex-cons with tech skills. This is a great way to spend tax payer money. Let's double down and spend a few billion (in a State with serious financial issues no less) educating ex-cons that can't get security clearance and who are untouchable by HR.

      • Yes, lots of HR departments in the Silicon Valley advertising for ex-cons with tech skills. This is a great way to spend tax payer money. Let's double down and spend a few billion (in a State with serious financial issues no less) educating ex-cons that can't get security clearance and who are untouchable by HR.

        What would you prefer we do then? Let prisons go on functioning as crime academies where the only thing the inmates learn is how to commit even more crime as soon as they're released?

  • "it is my hope that they hire people like them who have changed their lives and are now ready to contribute to society, pay taxes, follow the law, support their families..." Maybe the companies themselves could use a bit of rehabilitation
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Monday November 25, 2013 @09:24AM (#45513653) Journal
    It is well known that the squeaky wheel gets the oil, or as my grandma used to say, "the baby that cries gets milk".

    There are millions of poor people who had enough sense not to commit crime who would do ten times more with similar help languish, every politician lectures them to pull themselves up by the boot strap while continuing to cut investment in social programs, every pundit talks about how "poor people don't have ambition" or "poor are the takers and the rich are the makers".

    Wish there are charities dedicated to helping the working poor. The government spends billions of dollars in helping middle class people get to and from work in their cars, public transport, traffic management, highway etc etc. But helping an inner city poor person to get to work in the suburbs? Hardly any help. They all live just one blown tire, one alternator going on the blink, one fender bender away from being sucked into the vicious vortex of inability to get to work, inability to earn their way into the work force ...

    And all these felons, with newly minted tech skills thrown into the internet where nothing could be regulated or enforced... What can go wrong?

    • by sgt_doom (655561)
      Brilliant and logical and moral and ethical comments, 140!

      And of course, if one wishes crime to increase, at all levels, this is the way! (And this has been proven again and again and again.)

      In Washington state, specifically Seattle and the Puget Sound region, crime has increased in direct proportion to a specific action taken by two previous governors, Gary Locke, and Christine Gregroire, who both signed onto the interstate compact, brining 3 out of 4 parolees (ex-cons) to Seattle and outlying area
  • San Quentin State Prison is teaching carefully selected inmates the ins and outs of designing and launching technology firms

    No, I'm neither giving such firms any seed financing, nor buying their IPOs, when (and if) they ever go public. The probability of being swindled is just too high.

    They are guaranteed paid internships if they can finish the rigorous training program

    Maybe, the "careful selection" filters out only those, who got a few months in the lock-up for a bar-fight, or a marijuana smoke, or some o

    • by MysteriousPreacher (702266) on Monday November 25, 2013 @09:43AM (#45513779) Journal

      Sure, law abiding people deserve better. They deserve education, healthcare, housing and food. The fact that prisons provide these free of charge to prisoners is irrelevant.

      They also deserve lower crime rates, and hopefully schemes of this kind will mean these offenders are less likely to re-offend. It's going to depend on the numbers. It's an unfortunate reality that justice isn't necessarily fair for people who do the right thing.

      • by alphatel (1450715) *

        Sure, law abiding people deserve better. They deserve education, healthcare, housing and food. The fact that prisons provide these free of charge to prisoners is irrelevant.

        They also deserve lower crime rates, and hopefully schemes of this kind will mean these offenders are less likely to re-offend. It's going to depend on the numbers. It's an unfortunate reality that justice isn't necessarily fair for people who do the right thing.

        It seems that criminals who have been convicted of rape, burglary, or fraud are just the type of geek that Silicon Valley has been avoiding. It used to be cool 20 years ago and you could get away with it as long as you proved your pathological profile complimented your crafting genius. Now it just pisses the yuppie geeks off.

      • In optimization, you talk about the "curve must be monotonic", else you will converge to a false solution due to the "local minima" problem.

        In the society, the curve with "standard of living" on y axis and effort by the individual on the x axis must be monotonic and increasing. You can mess with the slopes all you want. But if you make the curve non monotonic you will have hiccups.

        Anyone not committing a crime must have a better standard of living than anyone who committed a crime.

        Anyone working must

        • by 228e2 (934443)
          Everything you exactly described is already what we have in our current working society. The problem is the human variable and the innate ability to abuse any given system.

          People want to implement controls, restrictions, checks and balances on things such as Welfare, Medicaid, Food stamps. But there will never be 100% compliance. There are always diminishing returns on systems with such a varying variable as the human. Even a mathematical model without the human element has diminishing returns. There wil
        • No argument from me - people should be rewarded based on effort. I don't see that providing adequate resources to rehabilitation and appropriate welfare would be mutually exclusive.

      • by sgt_doom (655561)
        A criminal with an educated is simply a better educated criminal. When the super-rich criminals achieve such wealth, they hire PR firms to change their labels from robber barons to philanthropists --- but the reality stays the same!
      • by mi (197448)

        Sure, law abiding people deserve better. They deserve education, healthcare, housing and food.

        Huh? Nobody deserves any of these things — not any more than he can afford.

        The fact that prisons provide these free of charge to prisoners is irrelevant.

        It is, indeed, irrelevant — unless condemned to death, the prisoners ought to be fed, and housed, and medically treated while in government's care. But teaching them, how to found companies (not even, how to work for one, but how to found one) —

  • I didn't know you need a PhD for that, or that this would help with technology jobs.

    On the other hand, the logic of the Twitter interface has always eluded me to such a degree that perhaps you do. If you can figure out that, a Millennium Prize can't be far away for you!

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      Practice tweeting

      I'm in the shower ... Iron-man Stan has dropped the soap and asked me to pick it up ... AAAAAAAAA

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      These "tech" leaders have little to do with technology, but sometimes they have a lot to do with the dumbing down of technology. Advertising on the internet or promoting advertisement does not automatically create a "tech" company.

  • The inmates doing time for theft and fraud related offences might just be the same ones who are stealing the computers at your office.
    • by macbeth66 (204889)

      Why steal the hardware? That is nickel and dime. Now they can learn to steal on a whole new level and in more lucrative and less risky way.

  • I guess when H1B workers just weren't cheap fucking enough, no, they need to use prison labor now too? Oh and good luck on getting a job with a felony record paying anything more than minimum wage, but I guess that is the point.

    • by sgt_doom (655561)
      Good and bad points, Andro. Plenty of felons get jobs, just a few years back a friend of mine (around 2004 or 2005) applied to the TSA along with thousands of others on the same day at the same location, and he was rejected within 15 minutes of filling out the paperwork (the time stamp on the rejection email they sent him). Several years later he reads in the newspaper that the four convicted felons they had hired that day (among thousands who had applied) were being sent back to jail for pilfering luggag
      • Same thing happened to me when I discharged out of the Army in 2002. I applied to the TSA and was not hired. One of the guys hired that day raped a teenage girl a few months later and then killed her. He was a Marine, too. We had the same clearance and the same screening, and my scores were a little better than his. *shrug*
      • by AndroSyn (89960)

        Good and bad points, Andro. Plenty of felons get jobs

        Oh I didn't say they couldn't get jobs, well paying ones? Doesn't sound like it. Ex-cons certainly are more willing to work for less pay. However when you have people underemployed or underpaid, recidivism certainly is a possible outcome. Your example of the luggage thieves, if they were getting paid better, they'd probably be a bit less likely to be stealing on the job. Pay people well enough. But don't take my word for it: http://news.illinois.ed [illinois.edu]

  • by Jody Bruchon (3404363) on Monday November 25, 2013 @09:52AM (#45513815)
    Because, y'know, America has always been "land of the outraged, home of the vengeance" since before I was a child. If you didn't want to be treated as a sub-human piece of filth, maybe you shouldn't have broken the law! Or so the paranoid helicopter moms who refuse to prepare their children to become adults continue to parrot on iVillage.com all the time. PROTIP: people who have a decent job, a home in decent repair, food on their plate, and some semblance of a social life with other law-abiding people are way less likely to break in and steal your Xbox for fencing than the guy who can't get a job because felony automatically equals "human trash forever" and there's really no other way to survive out there.

    The truth is that "criminals" are still people. You have to treat them as such. Give someone good reasons not to break the law...you know, like all that stuff I just said. They won't be so inclined to break it. Or, to put it another way, the most dangerous person is the one that has nothing left to lose.
    • Violent agreement (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25, 2013 @10:30AM (#45514159)

      While I expected this barrage of "wait: you're gonna TEACH all those CRIMINALS things? What if they become SMARTER CRIMINALS?" or "what about the INNOCENT PEOPLE who don't get any help?" it's still an eerie feeling.

      This is the intellectual elite? Sheesh.

      If I had to single it out, I'd say this is the thing most wrong with USA society. It makes me sad.

  • I think they're going to remake Con-Air now. And Cyrus "the Virus" will be a grad of the program.

  • by paiute (550198) on Monday November 25, 2013 @10:06AM (#45513951)
    Bring in nerds to try and turn cons into high tech entrepreneurs? Why not bring in Itzhak Perlman to teach them all how to be first-chair violinists? These guys need anger management, substance abuse counseling, and a job. They don't need angel financing.
    • Bring in nerds to try and turn cons into high tech entrepreneurs? Why not bring in Itzhak Perlman to teach them all how to be first-chair violinists? These guys need anger management, substance abuse counseling, and a job. They don't need angel financing.

      Earth calling paiute, come in paiute. This program is about getting them one of those three things.

      • by paiute (550198)

        The rigorous, six-month training teaches carefully selected inmates the ins and outs of designing and launching technology firms, using local experts as volunteer instructors.

        Yes, they need jobs, but on this planet, prisoners are not going to be "designing and launching technology firms". One in a million has the intelligence and skills to make that work. Don't you suspect that the initial touted success of the program might be due to these same local experts pulling strings to get the ex-cons a job so the local expert looks good? Do you think this is sustainable? Do you think that corporate America, which is paranoid about hiring ex-felons to wash floors, is going to hand them

    • by sgt_doom (655561)
      Well stated, sir, and the post presupposes that the majority of poor people are criminals, not simply among the most exploited.
  • utter hypocrisy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nimbius (983462) on Monday November 25, 2013 @10:33AM (#45514199) Homepage

    'This program will go a long way to not only providing these guys with jobs, but it is my hope that they hire people like them who have changed their lives and are now ready to contribute to society, pay taxes, follow the law, support their families,'

    Why didn't the milktoast suburbanites of san jose (silicon valley) and surrounding cities do this earlier, say before any of these candidate hires were charged or convicted with a crime? We're forgetting this and many other communities in california were the same ones who decided 3 strikes was a great idea to curb crime. that building prison repositories for nonviolent drug offenders was an easy way to pocket some private prison cash and rid the streets of low income minorities who were supporting their families and paying their taxes as best they could, until you criminalized their very existence. The program fails to take into account the lack of unskilled employment for people who certainly arent going to qualify for a position at google, but perhaps they used to be a good welder or carpenter. the program exists largely as an exercise in the psychology of guilt. the job education also doesnt take into account what being an inmate means in California or other states. It means you emerge with your housing and apartment applications categorically denied because you served time. It also means those nice companies that taught you cobol on your worst days, wouldnt so much as talk to you on the street on your best. you are a branded felon. no matter how much Java you learned you're faced with a system that endorses and accepts the wholesale shunning of an entire class of people from the employment system.

  • Goodness forbid we try to better ourselves by bettering our society. You guys have no problem letting these people rot in revolving door jails rather than letting them right their wrongs and contribute.

    BUT DERP, GIVE NON CONVICTS A CHANCE!!

    They have a chance! FFS, making one mistake should not doom you to a life of menial living. I swear being in such a capitalistic society creates some of the most selfish people.
    • by geek (5680)

      So you want to spend millions or perhaps billions educating convicted felons to work jobs that HR will not hire them for because they are felons? You are a fucking idiot.

      • by 228e2 (934443)
        If the result ends in an economy saving money from less people in revolving door prisons and turning that into generating tax revenue, then why not? Where is the benefit of life imprisonment?

        Also

        So you want to spend millions or perhaps billions educating convicted felons to work jobs that HR will not hire them for because they are felons? You are a fucking idiot.

        rofl?
        Besides, the very same mentality you are displaying is why felons cant catch a break. Congrats to adding to the problem without offering any viable solution.

        • by geek (5680)

          Tell ya what dumbass. Go find some ex-cons and give them the keys to your house. Let's see what happens.

          Now ask the executives of Silicon Valley tech firms to give the keys to the companies infrastructure to a bunch of ex-cons.

          Get the fuck out of fantasy land you ignorant sack of shit.

          • by 228e2 (934443)
            Yes, im clearly advocating doing that. Let me know when you've calmed down and we can continue to discuss this like adults.
  • This is a great idea. And the results are *expected* to be:
    a) vastly lower recidivism
    b) people *paying* taxes, rather than us paying taxes to keep them incarcerated.*

    * The US has had more people in jail since '04 than the Soviet Union did at its worst under Stalin. Enjoy paying taxes for that?

    The questions are:
    a) is this the actual result, or do they wind up trying a new class of crime?
    b) one of the major factors that re

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