By Michele Kane
CALPIA Chief of External Affairs
Photos by Manny Chavez
The sun shines through the chapel windows at San Quentin State Prison. On this warm summer day in late August, the cool sounds of jazz greet graduates and guests as they arrive to the special recognition ceremony hosted by the California Prison Industry Authority (or CALPIA).
“We are here to celebrate your achievements; you decided to take a positive step that is going to effectively change the rest of your life,” said CALPIA’s General Manager Scott Walker.
Dozens of men received certifications in Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor, Pre-Apprentice Roofing and Computer Coding referred to as Code.7370.
Along with CALPIA, the job-training programs are made possible through partnerships with CDCR’s Division of Rehabilitative Programs, San Francisco non-profit The Last Mile, Laborers International Union Local 304, and United Union of Roofers.
“These programs give you tools in your toolbox to be successful in life,” said CDCR’s Undersecretary of Operations Kathleen Allison. “Whether you were in the pre-apprentice programs or Code.7370, you have a skill you didn’t have when you got here, and you are going into industries that are very friendly to the justice involved.”
Jason Jones knows that first hand and says the skills he learned in the coding program on the inside helped him succeed on the outside. He has a full-time career as the lead remote instructor for The Last Mile.
“One thing I admire in each program is how people come together to create a strong, motivated, and supportive community and you know as well as I do how important community is for all of our growth,” said Jones speaking at the event.
Several other former graduates accompanied Jones.
“Give a round of applause for the men who came back and are successful in their careers,” added Allison
“You are able to become a better person with the help from volunteers and great programs here at San Quentin,” said Warden Ron Davis. “Keep making good decisions, we got guys here today who were once wearing blue and now wearing suits.”
CALPIA’s Code.7370 program started in 2014 at San Quentin. The program continues to have a zero percent recidivism rate. Code.7370 simulates a live coding environment without internet access.
“Our goal is to reduce recidivism, get to the root of the problem, let’s make people coming home successful, let’s help our children and let’s break that generational cycle of incarceration,” said The Last Mile Co-Founder Beverly Parenti.
Jones emphasized that point during his keynote address. He talked about volunteering and teaching coding in West Oakland.
“It is important to show young people, especially in underserved communities what success looks like outside the sports and entertainment world or the normal neighborhood illegal activities,” Jones said.
“Each and every one of you have that same opportunity to change what their perception is of success by the skills you are learning here today.” Jones added, “Never underestimate the beauty of believing in something bigger than your current situation.”