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Michigan DOC unveils "The Last Mile" coding program at Jackson Prison

Oct 22, 2019

JACKSON, MI - Prisoners in Jackson can now learn to code and develop websites. It's all thanks to a new program unveiled on Thursday at the Jackson State Prison called The Last Mile.

Paving the road to success- that's what the creators of the program say it was made for. Inmates become students in an intense six-month training program to give them new tools to make their transfer back to society after incarceration easier.

John Mannion is one of those students. For as long as he can remember, he has loved tech. Years ago he attended Mid-Michigan Community College for computer programming.

"I love that computers make sense to me,” said Mannion. “The fact is when you tell a computer to do something and it doesn't do it, It's not the computer's fault, it's our fault.”

But along the way, he ran into trouble and committed armed robbery and landed in the Jackson State Prison

"It wound me up to 10 to 20 year sentence. I bounced around from a few prisons from St. Louis to Muskegon to other prisons here in Jackson," said Mannion.

Throughout his time incarcerated he says he never lost sight of his love of computers. Now through The Last Mile coding program supported by Google, he finally dream in code again.

"This is my dream job so to go home not only with a career, but a career that I wanted my whole life and then to be able to provide for my family," said Mannion.

It's a part of the Michigan Department of Corrections Vocational Village where offenders have the option to train in one of 12 different vocational trades. Qualified inmates receive hands on training that they can take with them when they leave prison.

But it's a program that the Director of Michigan's prisons says could go away due to an overall state budget cut of $24 million dollars.

"It does mean that obviously we're going to have to look at our operations if that cut were not to be fixed so that is concerning to us," said Heidi Washington.

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist says he's calling on the state's legislature to make sure that doesn't happen.

"This is why budget negotiations are critical to recommence. That's why the Governor and I have been at the table ready and willing to have a conversation about the Department of Corrections budget, which was so fatally flawed when it was sent to us,"said Gilchrist.