The Last Mile
Pitch your solution.
TLM is committed to solving the problem of recidivism in America. Of the 2.3 million people incarcerated today, 95% will reenter society, each with a ~67% likelihood of returning to prison within three years, per the national average.
To mitigate recidivism, TLM empowers incarcerated populations with the skills today’s job market demands, along with post-release mentorship, to help individuals secure gainful employment upon leaving prison. TLM’s existing program offers training in full stack computer programming, in accordance with the growing need for coders across the employment market. As TLM progresses, the program will encompass job preparation for more high-demand fields, such as audiovisual production, while also addressing reentry planning, a critical component of post-release success.
With America’s incarceration rate being the world’s highest, TLM is prioritizing domestic scaling. If scaled globally, TLM could reduce recidivism internationally by teaching incarcerated populations in other countries the skills necessary for post-release success.
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
TLM is combating recidivism in America as a means of addressing the problem of mass incarceration. Despite having the world’s highest incarceration rate, America’s prison system has a five-year failure rate of 77%; the lack of effective rehabilitation makes incarceration a cyclical problem. This issue disproportionately impacts lower-class communities of color -- of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the US, over 60% are from African American and Latino communities. The median pre-prison income among incarcerated adults is $20,800, over 50% less than the average US adult’s annual income. For people who enter prison lacking marketable skills, their ability to secure a well-paying job is even slimmer post-incarceration, due to the stigma associated with criminal records. The incarcerated population is rarely able to gain the technical and digital skills valued by today’s job market, making it difficult for people to secure a livable income upon their release.
What is your solution?
TLM offers an educational program to people who are incarcerated, also providing a scalable model for change in a prison system that is difficult to impact. TLM’s vocational training for high-demand jobs has proven to increase social mobility, open career pathways, and reduce recidivism.
The program is designed for scaled implementation; TLM students across the country are taught remotely by an instructor who video conferences into in-prison classrooms to engage with students in real time. In the classroom, students complete coursework through our LMS, a sans internet platform created by TLM specifically for incarcerated students. The LMS adheres to correctional institutions’ security requirements while serving as a central location for TLM instructors to remotely interact with students, assign and grade coursework, and track individuals’ progress.
After completing TLM’s program, individuals are qualified to apply for employment as full stack programmers upon their release from prison.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
TLM serves America’s incarcerated population, in turn also serving the marginalized communities from which most incarcerated individuals come from. Of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the US, over 60% are from African American and Latino communities. The median pre-prison income among incarcerated adults is $20,800 -- over 50% less than the average US adult’s annual income.
TLM provides vocational training and post-release mentorship to individuals as a means of preventing recidivism. By equipping those who are incarcerated with the hard and soft skills necessary for gainful employment after release, TLM offers individuals new career pathways that would not have otherwise been available to them. This has proven to prevent recidivism, as 0% of TLM graduates have returned to prison after their release.
Founded at San Quentin in 2010, TLM has grown and evolved based on input from current and formerly incarcerated people since its inception. The justice-impacted population is directly represented in our organization; TLM regularly hires formerly incarcerated people who then contribute to the development of TLM. Further, TLM’s curriculum continues to be refined and expanded according to the feedback and performance of program students and graduates.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?Equip workers with technological and digital literacy as well as the durable skills needed to stay apace with the changing job market
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Challenge and your selected dimension.
TLM relates to the “Good Jobs & Inclusive Entrepreneurship” Challenge by providing a technology-based and career-oriented solution to address mass incarceration, a problem faced predominantly by people who are of color and impoverished.
Through in-prison web development training and post-release mentorship, TLM helps justice-impacted individuals secure well-paying jobs that they otherwise would not have been qualified to pursue. Further, TLM is introducing the prospect of new career pathways to marginalized communities. By reentering society as qualified software engineers and securing advanced technology jobs, TLM graduates demonstrate to their families and neighborhoods the opportunities made possible through education.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?San Francisco, CA, USA
What is your solution’s stage of development?Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth
Who is the primary delegate for your solution?
Beverly Parenti, Cofounder & Executive Director
If you have additional video content that explains your solution, provide a YouTube or Vimeo link here:
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?A new application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
TLM’s program is unique because it encompasses a custom-built technology platform, a comprehensive curriculum, and an alumni network, all of which are tailored to the needs of justice-impacted individuals. Other entities that address similar problems (recidivism reduction, access to in-prison education, reentry support) lack either the technological component or comprehensiveness that TLM offers.
Further, TLM’s reentry department cultivates our alumni network, providing post-release support and mentorship to graduates of the program. This includes connecting TLM alumni with job opportunities through our employment partners like Slack and Fandom, supporting their pursuit of higher education through our partners like Udemy and Udacity, as well as offering additional resources and guidance from other TLM Returned Citizens who can relate to their experiences.
Other in-prison programs lack either the technological presence, which enables TLM to teach the trade of web development, or the holistic program approach and staff, which allow us to continue support and contact with returned citizens post-incarceration.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
TLM has created a network stack and software suite that we utilize to deliver an educational program to our students. TLM leverages a handful of industry software and hardware to support our infrastructure, including Google Cloud Services, Palo Alto Networks equipment, Apple computers, Canvas LMS, GitLab, and various open source applications. The core of our technological offering are the dozens of customizations we have made to the hardware and applications we deploy, many revolving around security and monitoring to ensure the safe, private, and controlled environment in our classrooms.
There are many security concerns in a correctional setting with accessing cloud-hosted resources. We have created an entire platform that compartmentalizes student activity and access by facility-based sandboxes, allowing secure access to resources.
Participating in our program includes: a coding curriculum, live video calls, a help desk, an image repository, a personal git repository, a messaging platform, cloud file storage, HTTPS API endpoints, and a stack overflow and wikipedia clone. All of this is done within a tried and tested infrastructure in correctional facilities across five states, which has earned the trust of half a dozen Department of Corrections.
Originally, we used on-prem servers in each facility with a very clear definition that students could only access the LAN and no externally hosted resources. We have since worked to implement existing technology to create a scalable, next-generation model where students across our classrooms can access “internet-like” resources while still under the secure and safe umbrella required by the correctional-environment.
Provide evidence that this technology works.
Since the program’s founding in 2010, there has been 0% recidivism among the many TLM alumni who have reentered society, demonstrating that TLM’s solution for combating recidivism works. All of these individuals are now either pursuing higher education or full-time employment with companies like Slack, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, VMware, Fandom, and Adobe, among other major entities.
TLM’s technology has also proven to be scalable; since beginning at San Quentin State Prison, the program has expanded to operate in 17 facilities across five states: California, Indiana, Kansas Michigan, and Oklahoma. With a waiting list of over a dozen facilities, TLM continues to be among the most highly-demanded prison programs in the US due to its proven success.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
What is your theory of change?
We believe that the key to breaking the cycle of incarceration starts with in-prison rehabilitation through education. The Last Mile teaches students to build websites and applications, all without access to the internet. The program has served over 600 students to date and boasts a zero percent recidivism rate.
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
Currently, TLM serves 612 people. In one year we'll be serving 1,500 people, and within five years we expect to be serving at least 5,000 people.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Within the next year, our goal is to expand TLM’s existing in-prison offering beyond computer coding to include a course that holistically prepares participants for reentry, as well as an alternative vocational program for music and video production. Like TLM’s computer coding program, both of these new offerings, intended for launch in the next year, will be designed for scaled implementation.
As 95% of America’s 2.3 million incarcerated individuals will return to society, TLM’s reentry preparation course, at scale, has the potential to positively impact the vast majority of our prison population. Vocationally, the demand for audio and visual production jobs is expected by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to grow at an above-average rate of 8% through 2028. As such, TLM’s new Music and Video Program (MVP) will offer incarcerated students the training and certifications needed to qualify for jobs in the growing field.
Within five years, our goal is to further scale TLM’s coding program to operate in 50 classrooms across 14 geographically diverse states; by 2024 we anticipate having 5,000 coding students and 1,200 alumni pursuing higher education or gainful employment post-incarceration.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
Creating a prison education program with sophisticated technology is a daunting challenge. Prisons are fundamentally analog and hesitant to accept and adopt new systems and strategies. Not only does it require commitment and effort to develop a positive and progressive approach, but the prison industrial complex does not provide any incentives for correctional officers or administrators to implement programs that improve education and training for incarcerated populations. In addition, many states have powerful lobby groups and unions who thrive on the status quo.
As we continue to expand TLM, we anticipate our biggest hurdle continuing to be the education of correctional administrators across the country. We are prepared to continue putting in the time and effort required to help the necessary stakeholders understand TLM’s significant benefits, and that bringing technology into the prison environment should not be concerning or threatening if it is presented with the proper direction and security protocols.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
To date, we have overcome these barriers of education and understanding by building rapport with politicians at the state level, prison administrators, and the incarcerated populations they represent. While TLM has received government grants, we primarily fund our program through private donations and grants. This factor increases the appeal and receptivity of TLM to stakeholders. By offering a program with substantial proven results at potentially no cost to the state, TLM makes a strong case for implementation. With proper funding and support, TLM is positioned to continue scaling our program’s reach.
What type of organization is your solution team?Nonprofit
How many people work on your solution team?
- 21 full-time staff members
- 5 part-time staff members
- 3 independent contractors
How many years have you worked on your solution?
Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
The diversity among our team makes us uniquely positioned to deliver The Last Mile’s solution. TLM was cofounded by Beverly Parenti, a serial entrepreneur, and Chris Redlitz, a founding partner of venture investing firm Transmedia Capital, both of whom have leveraged their network of business and technology experts to elevate the program. We employ TLM alumni who were formerly incarcerated at every level of the organization, enabling our decisions to be informed through lived experience. Further, as TLM’s solution encompasses both education and computer coding, our team includes professionals with expertise in both of these areas. Overall, our team has experience in planning, managing, and evaluating rehabilitative programs; we have a demonstrated record of success in overseeing innovative programming within facilities while also adhering to their safety and security protocols.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
Slack, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, FREEAMERICA -- With these entities, TLM co-created Next Chapter, a year-long apprenticeship program at Slack that trains and mentors formerly incarcerated computer programmers.
Udemy, Udacity, O’Reilly Media, Coursera, LinkedIn (Lynda.com), Pluralsight -- TLM connects our Returned Citizen alumni interested in pursuing higher-education with these learning service providers.
What is your business model?
TLM operates the first full stack coding education program inside a US prison. TLM coding classrooms operate in California, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma and Michigan, and with rapid expansion plans to other states. Men, women, and youth are receiving technology training to become software engineers, achieving success that seemed impossible only a few years ago.
Remote Instructors host weekly live sessions on technical concepts that are introduced through the LMS, supplementing the curriculum by providing real world applications for abstract concepts of coding. Remote Instruction allows TLM to reach every classroom at least once a week, and provides a greater enhanced experience for learners regardless of their location. The scalability that results from this remote learning platform enables TLM to grow exponentially without dramatically growing organizational headcount.
TLM’s Impact Index was created to provide funders and state partners a broader spectrum of success metrics resulting from an intense career-focused technology education program. The data points collected include employment rates, income, education, TLM program graduation, community service, and housing, among others. Each data point was assigned a weighted value. The recidivism rate for all of our graduates is 0%.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?Organizations (B2B)
What is your path to financial sustainability?
The Last Mile has been fortunate to have a committed group of funding partners who understand the long term benefits of the program, inside and outside prison. In addition to our funding partners who cover operational costs, TLM also charges each correctional facility fees that cover the implementation of the program, and in most cases, our state agencies cover the cost of the onsite facilitator. The majority of the grant commitments cover two years of operation. The primary TLM funders include Google.org, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Cultural Leadership Fund, Stand Together, Bank of America, Kellogg, Simon Family Foundation, George Kaiser Foundation, Lobeck Taylor Family Fund, and the California Department of Corrections.