California Prisoners to Get Jobs as Programmers

Photo Courtesy: Martin E. Klimek, USA TODAY
Photo Courtesy: Martin E. Klimek, USA TODAY

By Jessica Guynn

California inmates can earn cash making license plates for state residents. Soon they’ll be able to get paid for writing code.

In a first for the country, prisoners at San Quentin State Prison are being considered for jobs as computer programmers. If everything goes as planned, they will work on projects for private businesses, all from inside the prison’s walls.

Officials at San Quentin, located just miles but a world away from the heart of San Francisco’s technology industry, made the announcement as the first group of inmates graduated from Code.7370, a new course that teaches the basics of coding.

Five private companies have expressed interest in hiring inmates as programmers and are being vetted, said Chuck Pattillo, general manager of the California Prison Industry Authority.

Inmates will be paid a wage comparable to entry-level programmers in the San Francisco Bay Area, Pattillo said. Deductions will be taken taken from that pay for room and board at the prison, support for inmates’ families, compensation for victims and a mandatory savings account that inmates can tap after they are released, Pattillo said.

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