Social Networking Without Internet: The Last Mile
This post originally appeared on the Literacy Lockup blog, which is run by Katherine Fleeman, a student of the University of California and is re-published on permission.
Writer: Katherine Fleeman
Most prison education programs cover the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic. (Click here to see more details about San Quentin’s basic education program.) For those who complete those basics and receive their GED, Patten University offers an Associate Degree program through the Prison University Project (which my colleague Greg Goomishian discusses on his blog Life Beyond Prison). But what about after that?
The Last Mile seeks to fill that gap.
The Last Mile is a new program at San Quentin that offers instruction on entrepreneurship and engaging in the rapidly digitizing world. Started in 2011 by the Silicon Valley-savvy Marin residents Chris Redlizt and Beverly Parenti, the program brings in volunteer mentors and instructors to discuss business formation and digital tools. The program is very selective, taking only a handful of men who graduated from the Prison University Program – many of whom have indeterminate sentences or life. At the end of the seminar, the men present their pitches at a Demo Day in front of fellow inmates and venture capitalists and other guests from the outside.
One interesting facet of The Last Mile is its use of social media. Although the inmates may not have access to Twitter themselves, they compose tweets which volunteers copy onto the Last Mile’s Twitter feed. The men also contribute to a blog and answer questions on Quora. In this way, the men are introduced to the principles and theory necessary for conducting social media – without having actual access to the social media. It would be interesting to see how this approach could benefit schools outside the prison that similarly lack resources but have students who would benefit from social media training.
The founders hope that not only will it give inmates more marketable skills, it will also inspire them to become leaders and mentor other inmates within the system. Currently, they are in the progress of creating a way to replicate the program at other prisons. As the program is still fairly new, it is not yet possible to determine its effectiveness. It has, however, garnered quite a bit of media attention, and as its graduates transition back into society, it will certainly be watched as a possible model for other education programs.