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Prisoners to be taught coding in bid to tackle reoffending

Prisoners will be taught coding to help prepare them for the world of work Photo: Niall Carson/PA

A project which teaches coding to prisoners to help prepare them for a return to the world of work is to be expanded following Government funding.

The project, which involves “carefully vetted” inmates, is being given a cash injection by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as part of a £1.2 million scheme to help people in marginalised groups get jobs.

A trial at HMP Humber, a category C prison in East Yorkshire, will be expanded to HMP Holme House, a category C jail in Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham.

The Code 4000 workshops, which are led by volunteers and industry experts, will see prisoners given initial training before being allowed to work on real-world projects for external clients.

The third stage will involve working for clients on temporary day release, with the hope that the prisoners will go on to secure employment as developers after their jail terms are complete.

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The programme is modelled on the Last Mile project in the San Quentin prison in California, which has helped almost 500 offenders, none of whom have gone on to reoffend.

This compares to the national average reoffending rate in the US of 55%.

The DCMS says reoffending costs the UK around £15 billion a year.

Margot James, minister for digital, said: “The Government is committed to stopping the cycle of reoffending and a valuable asset to prevent recidivism is employment.

“Equipping offenders with coding skills will help them into life-changing work and give them a path to a hugely rewarding career.

“We have a world-leading digital economy and this new funding will help keep people out of prison so they can give back to their local communities as well as be a boost for our tech businesses.”

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Prisons minister Rory Stewart said Code 4000 was an “excellent example of what can be achieved through education and training in prison”.

“It not only helps offenders turn their lives around but also benefits society by reducing the chances of their reoffending,” he added.

The courses, which will teach the basics of HMTL, CSS and Javascript, as well as more advanced concepts such as Git, TDD and MVC, are already having an impact in reducing reoffending, said Neil Barnby, a workshop instructor at HMP Humber.

“We are constantly seeing success after success,” he said.

“I look back on the years that I have been teaching coding in prisons and can see all the lives I have had a part in changing for the better.”