Convicted felons given second chance through tech training

Published: Jun. 11, 2019 at 4:51 PM CDT
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A new program is helping women at Topeka Correctional Facility get a second chance.

The Last Mile is a nonprofit out of San Francisco. The Kansas Department of Corrections brought it to Topeka, hoping to change inmates’ lives by teaching them skills in the tech field.

"It is such a monumental opportunity for us to show that even though we are incarcerated, we are still human,” Amber Bright, a participant in the program, said. “We just make mistakes, and those mistakes don't define us."

Fourteen women at Topeka Correctional Facility, all convicted felons, are the inaugural class of The Last Mile.

"You're going to be able to make an impact in companies. You're going to be employable as soon as you get out the door,” Kansas Secretary of Commerce, David Toland, said to the group. “Our goal as a state is to help you reenter the state, find these jobs, and stay in Kansas. We need you here. We want you here."

Over the next year, the women will learn how to code, develop apps, and build websites.

"I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to be able to establish myself while I'm still inside of these walls, and to be able to walk out into a ready-made career,” Bright said.

Nationwide, more than 60 percent of inmates will reoffend and return to prison after serving their time. The program hopes providing education and career training opportunities can break the cycle.

"We haven't been able to see the success down the road like this, and The Last Mile has given us that hope and showed us that we have the opportunity to become something great,” Bright said.

Kansas is one of four states alongside California, Indiana, and Oklahoma to have the The Last Mile program.