By Christopher Zoukis
Women in the Georgia prison system are getting a unique learning opportunity, thanks to a partnership between Code/Out and Arke.
Code/Out is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing recidivism and poverty among incarcerated women in the Georgia penal system. Code/Out addresses this by teaching female inmates how to code, and how technology can give them an edge in the workforce. The organization partners with corporations to build a network of employers who can help to integrate the women into the workforce.
Code/Out has partnered with Arke, a branding company that offers brand experience, journey mapping (helps companies understand the steps consumers make when deciding to purchase products), channel execution (building a brand on multiple digital and social streams) and technology implementation, for this unique project.
According to Indeed.com, coders in Atlanta can make an average of $23.79/hour, which is 9 percent above the national average. The cost of living in Atlanta is reasonable, at 1 percent below the national average, and the average salary is a healthy $59,125. With those figures, it’s easy to see how a coding job for a released female offender could radically improve her quality of life.
It’s not just the job skills that enable women to live and take care of their families better. Along with making a living wage comes all sorts of opportunity for higher education, for access to programs like sports and music for the kids (adults too!), and the ability to connect socially and professionally in the community. Those connections lead to further opportunities for work, social engagements, giving back, entrepreneurship, and relationships.
The simple, selfless acts of Code/Out and its corporate partners have a generational impact that affects the student, that student’s family, and their community. The classes are a great strategy in the long-range plan to reduce recidivism and poverty across the city.
“Most of these women in prison are willing and capable individuals that just need the right education and opportunity to do something different,” said Hanna Hill, executive director, Code/Out. “In the United States, tech opportunities are more than double the national average. In Atlanta alone, there was an increase of 7.7 percent in the technology industry in 2015. The time is now for this initiative.”
It’s true. A look at Glassdoor shows a good variety of entry-level coding jobs in the city of Atlanta with starting salaries as high as $58K – $82K. Many of these positions come with the added benefits of medical insurance, life insurance, and vacation time. Some of the jobs required no prior, or minimal experience – just a willingness to learn and to engage in the corporate culture.
For many incarcerated women in America, their crimes were the result of a disadvantaged situation that saw them turn to drugs, prostitution, or theft to survive. The social inequality (colored/disenfranchised women are more likely to go to jail than Caucasian women, and colored/disenfranchised women have less robust access to the same opportunities as Caucasian women in the workforce) creates a downward spiral for those not born to middle/upper-middle-class families. Companies like Code/Out and its corporate partners help to level the playing field and show that what incarcerated women need, more than anything, is education and a chance to use it. Given that, those women can, and will, change the world.
Christopher Zoukis is the author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons, (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Co., 2014). He regularly contributes to New York Daily News, Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News. He can be found online at ChristopherZoukis.com, PrisonEducation.com and PrisonerResource.com.