Prisoners to be Taught Coding in England

The government will fund a scheme allowing “carefully vetted” prisoners to be taught to code with the aim of better preparing them for the world of work after prison.

The project comes as part of a £1.2m effort, aiming to increase the digital skills of people from disadvantaged groups.

Led by volunteers and industry experts, the courses will let prisoners work on real-world projects with external clients. The project will start with basic coding before moving to a more advanced level.

An award of £100,000 will be given to fund the project in two prisons initially – Humber and Holme House, in County Durham. Pending the success of these trials, a network of coding workshops across UK prisons could be set up.

The Last Mile project in the San Quentin prison, in California, has helped almost 500 offenders find jobs after release. The UK programme is modelled on this one, where none of the participants re-offended. Compared with a national re-offending rate in the US of 55%, this is an impressive accomplishment.

According to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, re-offending in the UK is estimated to cost around £15bn.

Minster for Digital Margot James said: “The government is committed to stopping the cycle of re-offending and a valuable asset to prevent recidivism is employment.

“Equipping offenders with coding skills will help them into life-changing work and give them a path to a hugely rewarding career.”

Prisoners start by learning HTML, CSS and JavaScript, before progressing to more advanced concepts like Git, TDD, MVC, databases and full stack development. After this they start work on real-world projects for external clients, where money earned is ploughed back into the project.

The final stage of the process sees them working for clients on temporary day release. The aim being to help them find full-time employment as developers when their jail terms are complete.