By Chris Schuhmacher

There I was…San Quentin State Prison and while other men are on the yard working out or in the building running the tiers, I’m finishing another day in the Code.7370 program learning the front-end web development skills of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It’s so surreal, because for the longest time I wondered what life was going to be like for me after prison. More specifically, who would want to hire an ex-felon who had spent over a decade behind bars? Most of the vocations they offer men in prison are for manual labor positions like auto body repair, landscaping , plumbing , etc. It was hard not to get depressed as the thought of being stuck in some meaningless job for the rest of my life played across my mind. I put these thoughts out of my mind as quickly as they came, because all I knew was that I had to keep moving forward in order to survive.

Then along came the Last Mile and the Code.7370 program. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be able to receive this type of training while in prison. For the longest time, computers were strictly taboo to inmates. For the past 15 years, I’ve had to watch from the sidelines as computers got faster, tech got cooler, and how the world interacts has dramatically changed via the social network. With every passing year, the digital divide between me and the free world grew wider and wider. When I was selected to the Code.7370 program, I was thrilled because it felt as if everything before now was in preparation for this opportunity.

Today ended our 22nd week in the Code.7370 program and I’ve been keeping a log of my coding hours. I don’t know what 500 hours is in the grand scheme of things, but let me tell you what it means to me. I knew absolutely nothing about coding when I walked into the class and today I feel as if I’ve found a passion and a purpose. With every website I design and build, with every mobile app I sketch out and code, with every impossible JavaScript riddle I find a solution for, I feel more and more prepared for life after prison. I finally know what direction I’ll be heading in when those gates open for me. It’s been a long time coming , but thanks to the Last Mile and Code.7370 change finally did come.