Your job title:
Chief Program Officer
Your organization name:
The Last Mile
When was your organization founded?
In what city, town, or region are you located?Berkeley, CA, USA
In what city, town, or region is your organization headquartered?San Francisco, CA, USA
In which countries does your organization currently operate?
Why are you applying for The Elevate Prize?
The Last Mile designs, develops, and delivers educational programs to people who are currently and formerly incarcerated and provides a scalable model for change in the criminal justice system both on an individual level and systemically across the jurisdictions we serve.
The Elevate Prize grant would enable us to deepen and expand our programmatic offerings for both incarcerated students and alumni coming home. In correctional facilities, funding would support the operating costs for up to 8 TLM classrooms with up to 30 students each. TLM classrooms require access to a centrally hosted software suite for students, including an LMS with proprietary curriculum, student Help Desk, and live remote instruction, all of which require regular development and maintenance.
In support of TLM reentry efforts across the United States, this funding would enable us to provide continuing education and essential services for alumni returning to society post-incarceration. Our growing community of returned citizens rely on resources and a supportive network to build pathways to gainful employment and grow into leadership roles across the country. In providing our alumni with these resources, we not only impact the individuals we serve but also foster increased diversity and representation across the tech sector at large.
Tell us about YOU:
I graduated from UCLA and started my career as a web developer in Russia before returning to the US. My first exposure to prison education was when I volunteered to teach web design in a women’s facility in Los Angeles. I learned not only about the profound and pervasive systems of oppression in our criminal justice system but also how technology can be used to counteract them.
I found the perfect marriage of my experience in education and web development and my passion for criminal justice reform when I began working as a support tech with The Last Mile in San Quentin.
Over my tenure at The Last Mile, I have contributed significantly to the evolution of our vision and expansion of our impact; I have defined and developed operational procedures that support internal processes and collaboration with our partners at Departments of Corrections. I've also advanced our leadership strategy, ensuring that our mission to expand opportunities for education and employment for people impacted by the criminal justice system is baked into each facet of our expanded offering. I will drive TLM to continue to disrupt the status quo and never stop innovating.
Pitch your organization.
Recidivism rates exceed 60% nationally, presenting a significant fiscal burden on state budgets and perpetuating instability in marginalized communities. People of color account for approximately 37% of the US population, yet they represent 67% of the prison population. This is due in no small part to a lack of proper training for sustainable post-release employment as well as widespread prejudicial hiring practices and hesitancy among companies to consider justice-impacted candidates. Without developing a comprehensive solution to address employment preparation, generational incarceration will recur and continue to plague underserved individuals and communities. Furthermore, biases and social stigma will continue to prevent equal representation in today’s workforce.
TLM provides a platform for incarcerated individuals to develop highly marketable technical and soft skills to prepare them for fulfilling, growth-oriented employment after their releases from prison. Each participant has the opportunity to learn full stack web development and to build digital literacy and professional soft skills during an intensive one year program while they are incarcerated. Post-release, TLM offers comprehensive career planning and professional development services for returned citizens in our community, including continuing education, an internal TLM apprenticeship program, as well as the forging of apprenticeship programs with partner organizations.
Describe what makes your work innovative.
At The Last Mile, we use technology to offer best-in-class technical educational programming inside correctional facilities at scale. Our innovative approach to instruction and curriculum design is tailored to fit the constraints of carceral environments and meet the needs of our students. In addition to accessing state of the art instructional resources, our students regularly interact with alumni of our program on staff who provide our them with contextually relevant and empathetic support via several virtual platforms. This remote learning model has afforded TLM the flexibility to respond effectively to the unpredictable and nuanced prison environment, as demonstrated by our continued programming through recent closures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
All of this stands on the foundation of our vetted and trusted tech platform and our strong relationships with each state government partner built over 10 years of collaboration and incident-free programming.
At The Last Mile, we believe that success is defined by what our students and alumni have achieved. We developed the TLM Impact Index in 2019 to shift the conversation from using recidivism as the (limited) post-incarceration success metric to providing a more nuanced and holistic view of success, including employment, income, education, community service, and housing.
How and why is your organization having an impact on humanity?
Although some US prisons offer limited training and volunteer programs, The Last Mile stands apart in providing advanced technology training that leads directly to high-paying jobs. TLM also created apprenticeship programs in partnership with organizations such as Slack, Zoom, and SEP to support our alumni and change the face of tech. Post-incarceration, justice-impacted people face many barriers to entry into meaningful careers across most industries due to prejudiced hiring practices, lack of staff support, and social stigma. TLM’s apprenticeship programs directly address these barriers by offering individuals new perspectives and organizations a model of how to increase diversity across the tech industry.
In service of the wider community of justice impacted individuals, we have launched TLM Talks, a video series for all incarcerated people in CA, showcasing dialogues about current events and a connection to the outside world. We have also developed a partnership with the Grow with Google Career Readiness for Reentry program, ensuring incarcerated individuals have access to professional development resources. The success of our programming has provided vital data points for legislators and a catalyst for governmental action, such as the 2020 historic commutations by Governor Stitt (OK) and the passage of California propositions 36 and 57.
Select the key characteristics of the community your organization is impacting.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your organization address?
Which of the following categories best describes your work?