Prisoners in England to Be Taught Code

Megalith

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Reducing reoffending through programming: as part of an effort to increase the digital skills of people from disadvantaged groups, the UK government is funding a project in which prisoners will be taught to code so they can more easily find work after release. Assuming the trial goes well, a network of coding workshops could eventually be established in UK prisons.

The program is modeled on the Last Mile project in the San Quentin prison, in California, which has helped almost 500 offenders find jobs after release, with none of those taking part reoffending. That compares with a national reoffending rate in the US of 55%. Reoffending in the UK is estimated to cost around £15bn, according to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
 

WBurchnall

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Amazing since if you tweet #LearnToCode to journalists, you get banned from Twitter. The whole idea being the meme is how out of touch with modern middle American jouranlists became. Primarily, when coal miners were losing their jobs, you had 50 year old men who had almost never touched a computer and still found it difficult to get their PC to open the URL to the online-banking page, let alone sign in, being told to just learn to code and retrain for jobs in Silicon Valley.

Even if they were in the mood to learn, from that starting point, a 4 year university degree in computer science and cost to relocate would be unlikely to pay for itself very well after taxes over the remaining (11 years (minus education) of work-career left.

I would be curious how many of the innmates in question already have decent fundamental understandings of algebra, logical process flows and the mathematical pre-requisites to program at a medium to advanced level. IE if you threw them into a discreet mathematics course or mathematics for computer-science course, would they have the fundamentals down? Would they know how to use logs to calculate the efficiency of an algorithm?
 

darckhart

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Clearly these folks didn't have the best judgement to begin with.... and with (mobile) cybercrime malware/phishing/etc on the rise, I'm not sure I see why they would choose to go down this route. I'm sure there's lots of other things to teach...
 

Patton187

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Amazing since if you tweet #LearnToCode to journalists, you get banned from Twitter. The whole idea being the meme is how out of touch with modern middle American jouranlists became. Primarily, when coal miners were losing their jobs, you had 50 year old men who had almost never touched a computer and still found it difficult to get their PC to open the URL to the online-banking page, let alone sign in, being told to just learn to code and retrain for jobs in Silicon Valley.

Even if they were in the mood to learn, from that starting point, a 4 year university degree in computer science and cost to relocate would be unlikely to pay for itself very well after taxes over the remaining (11 years (minus education) of work-career left.

I would be curious how many of the innmates in question already have decent fundamental understandings of algebra, logical process flows and the mathematical pre-requisites to program at a medium to advanced level. IE if you threw them into a discreet mathematics course or mathematics for computer-science course, would they have the fundamentals down? Would they know how to use logs to calculate the efficiency of an algorithm?
I'm a degreed accountant and I answer no to all.
 

velusip

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There has got to be better hobby programmes in prison.

"in order to better prepare them for the world of work."

What "world of work" are they talking about?
 

Bigshrimp

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I find this to be a really good thing. People may not change easily, but at least they are being given a second chance in life, if they want it. That is more than fair in my opinion.
 

bigdogchris

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This is a fantastic idea. Gives them something they can rely on when they get out. Put the correcting back into Corrections. Allows them to be a true contributing member of society.

Or they could be creating the next generation of criminals in computer based crimes.
 

faugusztin

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I would be curious how many of the innmates in question already have decent fundamental understandings of algebra, logical process flows and the mathematical pre-requisites to program at a medium to advanced level. IE if you threw them into a discreet mathematics course or mathematics for computer-science course, would they have the fundamentals down? Would they know how to use logs to calculate the efficiency of an algorithm?
Literally none of that is required for most programming jobs. Not even in banking sector. I can count on fingers of one hand how many times i needed mathematics more advanced high school mathematics. And these inmates will most likely be taught "entry" level stuff, to get them started. HTML/CSS/JS hardly require anything of that. These guys won't be learning AI, ML, robotics etc.
 

WBurchnall

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.... And these inmates will most likely be taught "entry" level stuff, to get them started. HTML/CSS/JS hardly require anything of that. These guys won't be learning AI, ML, robotics etc.
Then the program has failed right off the bat, imo. The former entry level stuff is set on track to be programmable via AIs within two decades if not sooner.

There's already countless 'website-building' websites out there that will do basic HTML/CCS/JS for you with plugins, pre-made scripts, etc that are as simple as click and drag and fill in a few popup boxes. Take that technology 5-10 years further and add in AI and ML and that won't be a job-skill. They should be teaching inmates data science, AI and ML/Robotics in order to get them job ready for what's going be out there in 5-10 years when they get released; not forms of coding that will be absolute upon their release from prison in 5-10 years.
 

seanreisk

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I remember reading a proposal for an auto mechanics program for inmates. The idea was going to start by teaching simple (non-computerized) auto mechanics by assembling and disassembling old engines. As the program advanced, members of the farming community in four regional states could arrange to have older (but still useful) farm trucks brought to the prison to be rebuilt for the price of materials. Advanced classes would teach electrical systems, body work and advanced engine systems. Inmates could get manufacturer certification and parolees could be pre-vetted for jobs automotive jobs. They were even talking about work programs where day-parolees could do community work for low income people.

A new warden came and said that the entire program looked like a system for smuggling illegal goods into the prison, and the project was closed. Because because.
 

ru!ner

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Then the program has failed right off the bat, imo. The former entry level stuff is set on track to be programmable via AIs within two decades if not sooner.

There's already countless 'website-building' websites out there that will do basic HTML/CCS/JS for you with plugins, pre-made scripts, etc that are as simple as click and drag and fill in a few popup boxes. Take that technology 5-10 years further and add in AI and ML and that won't be a job-skill. They should be teaching inmates data science, AI and ML/Robotics in order to get them job ready for what's going be out there in 5-10 years when they get released; not forms of coding that will be absolute upon their release from prison in 5-10 years.
Html is not coding, but this statement just makes me believe you have no experience with either AI or html.
 

steakman1971

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The company I work for sponsors a program that teaches basic IT skills to low income people (aka inner city). I know one of the skills they focus on is QA testing.
A recent success story: a lady went through the program and came out making $15 an hour (not that great where I live). At first, she was disgruntled and thought she had wasted her time as it wasn't much better than wages from a warehouse/retail. In 5-6 years, she eventually became a scrum master at a company (don't think its where I work). She is now making 6 figures.
A lot of success is based on your proximity to people. If you are stuck in a poor part of town and bouncing between crappy jobs, your chances to climb out are a challenge. On the contrary, go to an environment that promotes success and see success - you have better odds to improve yourself/be more successful in life. Not too mention, its very important to network and get to know people. My last two jobs I worked at are a result of me knowing people on the inside. Would my resume even have been looked at otherwise? Maybe...
I also agree with training people in prisons with job skills. I think they should offer programs in auto repair, HVAC, electricians, welders, etc. If a prisoner gets out of jail with no skills, they will struggle to find employment. (Even with a skill, it's a struggle if you are a con - would I want a former prisoner in my house fixing my furnace? Not going to lie, I have trust issues)
 

MMitch

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I suspect this is more to teach them to think, resolve problem, apply idea, think out of the box, etc than to prepare them for a new job.
Programming (Entry level) is a good way to mix a lot of technical stuff into 1 category with little to no investment and requires not a lot of space.

This is a great way to teach them to use their brain in a good way (They choose how to use it in the end...)

Anyway, I think it's better than nothing for sure and should help a few.
 

WBurchnall

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Html is not coding, but this statement just makes me believe you have no experience with either AI or html.
I'd say great argument but you just made an insult in the form of an ad hominem. Nice try. Furthermore, I wasn't the one to imply HTML/CCS were coding languages that would be taught by this learn to code program. That was the person I am replying to. I just quoted his language of choices back to him. So that's the second fail in such a short message. I agree that HTML is not a programming language. It's a markup language but JS is a language. They'd probably teach java/c/c++/vb if I were to guess.
 

faugusztin

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I'd say great argument but you just made an insult in the form of an ad hominem. Nice try. Furthermore, I wasn't the one to imply HTML/CCS were coding languages that would be taught by this learn to code program. That was the person I am replying to. I just quoted his language of choices back to him. So that's the second fail in such a short message. I agree that HTML is not a programming language. It's a markup language but JS is a language. They'd probably teach java/c/c++/vb if I were to guess.
Quote from the article :
Prisoners will learn HTML, CSS and Javascript, before moving on to more advanced concepts such as Git, TDD, MVC, databases and full stack development.
OK, i didn't said databases & full stack later, to be fair. Obviously it is a question, what language will complement the stack, maybe it will be Java, maybe Python, maybe something else. But the start is indeed what i said.
 
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well if its like any of the training schemes i went on when i was younger it'll be a scam and they wont learn much.
 

ru!ner

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I'd say great argument but you just made an insult in the form of an ad hominem. Nice try. Furthermore, I wasn't the one to imply HTML/CCS were coding languages that would be taught by this learn to code program. That was the person I am replying to. I just quoted his language of choices back to him. So that's the second fail in such a short message. I agree that HTML is not a programming language. It's a markup language but JS is a language. They'd probably teach java/c/c++/vb if I were to guess.
I was referring to the statement you made not that html isn't coding.

Website builders have been around since the early 2000s at least and take care of the low hanging fruit that will work with a cookie cutter template. Then there are storefront modules, etc to take care of a few more cases.

Custom interfaces isn't a task that AI would particularly excel at, and even if it were there are plenty of entry level positions doing data munging where you wouldn't need a background in mathematics.
 

Darkbreeze

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What a great idea. Teach people who are already criminally minded a great new skill like also being able to hack everything. What could possibly go wrong?
 
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funny.

i rather hire a ex-con welder than a ex-con coder

an ex-con coder has MUCH more opportunities for crime that will hurt my business and customers
 

clockdogg

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Microsoft could train 20-30 thousand prisoners to be Win10 QA testers. Oh...right...no employment options once they're released.
 
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What a great idea. Teach people who are already criminally minded a great new skill like also being able to hack everything. What could possibly go wrong?
People are a product of their environment. There is no such thing as inherent criminality - only a power imbalance between the haves and the have-nots.

The have-nots get the short end of the stick because the haves have loaded the social dice to protect their interests...
 

Kajun614

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So they learn a skill they can use when they get out to cause more harm if they choose or maybe a couple will be productive in life cause they got a chance to learn something. dunno /shrug
 

raz-0

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Literally none of that is required for most programming jobs. Not even in banking sector. I can count on fingers of one hand how many times i needed mathematics more advanced high school mathematics. And these inmates will most likely be taught "entry" level stuff, to get them started. HTML/CSS/JS hardly require anything of that. These guys won't be learning AI, ML, robotics etc.
Been doing the IT thing for quite a while and my CS degree had a big focus on the math and theory. You definitely need a full grasp of algebra, logic, and a decent grasp of combinatorics quite regularly. The stuff that gets into the limitations of implementing heavy math on systems with non-continuous representations of number systems isn't really needed.

I've also worked in the trades with work-release prisoners. While plenty of them aren't stupid, most of them are missing a fuck ton of educational background and are struggling with serious issues regarding patience and impulse control that makes smoothing over that gap difficult. I would bet a decent amount that this successful program with no recidivism was small scale and is completely unreproducible at scale. There's a difference between picking 100 people who can get their shit together out of a population of many thousands and giving them the opportunity to get their shit together, and declaring that giving the smae opportunity to every prisoner will have the same results. Another common theme with them was a shit vocabulary and poor language and communication skills. You have to address that too. IMO that one is a lot easier based on my experience. Stop dumbing shit down for them and put them around people who can actually speak, and they for the most part have the same mental tools to pick up on stuff from context as most people.
 
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