Updated Aug 18, 2022 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on reducing recidivism through technology

On Thursday, August 18th, Axios chief technology correspondent Ina Fried and race and justice reporter Russell Contreras led conversations examining the impact technology and connection can have on reducing recidivism and improving social and economic outcomes for those who are incarcerated. Guests included The Last Mile co-founder Chris Redlitz and Justice Through Code founder and director Aedan Macdonald

Chris Redlitz discussed the role technology plays in helping incarcerated people build tech skills and reducing recidivism rates. 

  • On reducing rates of recidivism in the U.S.: “We are the most incarcerated country in the world and recidivism rates are across the country north of 50%. And the biggest factor is that about 95% of people that are incarcerated are coming home. So the question is, who do you want them to be? And many folks, we talk a lot about second chances, but many of the folks inside never really had a first chance. So how can you help prepare those that are coming back into society to have real hirable skills?”
  • On companies in Silicon Valley hiring the formerly incarcerated: “Really it’s teaching those skills that are hirable, you know, and companies really starting in Silicon Valley started hiring. Now we have folks placed at Slack, and Zoom, and Dropbox, and Square and Pilot, and many, many companies now are supporting this because the folks that come out really do have skills. And as we know, there’s really a need for software developers today and valued employees.”

Aedan Macdonald described what drew him to the field of coding and how educational programs can inspire those who have been incarcerated to think about their career trajectory after they’ve been released from prison. 

  • On his inspiration for creating a coding boot camp for people who had been incarcerated: “I realized for so many of my friends who I had made over the last four years while I was incarcerated, I was an anomaly, right. Not many other people were ending up at Columbia, much less securing employment. And I was really kind of inspired by how can I help address this problem, and also, how can I extend the resources of this incredible institution that I would have never previously dreamed of entering into to a larger group of people.”
  • On what attracts people to the field of coding: “I think also the problem solving aspect, right, you’re able to build something that’s tangible, that’s really going to impact society and that really kind of touches all aspects of our daily lives and historically, where there hasn’t been a representative group of people that are building that technology from our general population.”

In the View from the Top segment, Aventiv Technologies’ president and CEO Dave Abel and advisory board chairwoman Teresa Hodge explained how access to technology can help break cycles of recidivism.

  • Dave Abel: “First of all, every study shows that the greater that individuals inside facilities connect with their support networks, outside facilities, results are better. So technology can help to be able to create greater connectivity and communication…the second is access to tools, educational materials, job skill materials, motivation, inspiration, reentry content. Technology can provide tools that have traditionally been unavailable to incarcerated individuals to help them with a smoother reentry. And then finally, is the impact on the environment. Our customers and our consumers say that in facilities that are using our tablets, the environment is quieter…and it’s easier to be focused on creating better outcomes.” 

Thank you Aventiv Technologies for sponsoring this event.

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