Living a Dream, In Prison

This is a weekly series about hope and redemption from behind prison walls, and from people who have overcome adversity to create a successful life after prison.

V96634 : That was my identity until I became a free man 2011.

While incarcerated, I served a good portion of my time at San Quentin State Prison, just north of San Francisco. Today, I am back in San Quentin, and it’s pretty remarkable. Words sometimes fail me when trying to explain what the experience is like.

When I was released, my goal was to return, not wearing prison blue — but to teach the population, technology, website development, and how to create software applications. I knew that the challenge of re entering society was tough, and that technology could be a game changer. That’s why I struggled to learn programing in my cell with nothing but books and persistence. After 7 years of incarceration, I continued to pursue my goal of learning to code, and come back to teach others the benefit of technology.

Today, I am proud to start my morning embarking on a journey that brings me back to San Quentin where it all began. After taking in the amazing view on my walk to the prison gate, my focus is set on managing a group of men. This has never been done before. No formally incarcerated person has ever been hired to run a business inside prison. The Last Mile Works is the business, a joint venture with the California Department of Corrections and CalPIA. The Last Mile Works is a web development shop where inmates can work for outside companies, developing websites and web apps, and earn the highest wage ever paid in a US prison.

Together we’re breaking stereotypes, doing the unthinkable. We’re not just learning to code and building websites, we’re actively engaged in solving the same real world challenges that other engineering teams experience when bringing products to market.

The Last Mile Works engineers build informational, e-commerce, and data-driven websites using a slew of technologies such as WordPress, KeyStone, JavaScript, Node, React, and various API integrations. The have done work for start ups, non profits and large companies like AirBnB. What they have done without the internet is nothing short of remarkable, and it is impressive that they are just getting started.

Never in my wildest dreams did I image that I would actually be able to park outside the gates, walk inside San Quentin, to work in my dream job and go home to my family at the end of the day. Thanks to the courage and forward thinking of our decision makers, that is possible. And I want to thank those decision makers as they continue to consider, what else is possible.

This is an incredible opportunity for me, and I encourage businesses who need help with their websites, and need apps to reach out to The Last Mile Works, and you’ll encounter some of the most dedicated, talented and responsive people you’ve ever met.

Forever Grateful,

Tulio Cardozo

You can reach me at: tulio@thelastmile.org or if you’d like more information about The Last Mile Works, you can reach us through our website: https://tlmworks.org