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North Dakota State Penitentiary implements web development training program for inmates

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 4:49 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Many incarcerated individuals struggle to find employment after serving their sentence.

Often the go-to fields are construction or welding.

The North Dakota State Penitentiary is trying to give inmates another career choice, by implementing a new program designed to trained incarcerated individuals in web development.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that employment for web developers and digital designers is projected to grow 13% from 2020 to 2030 — faster than the average for all other occupations.

Johnny Patrom is one of the first participants in The Last Mile Program.

“I’ve been able to design a couple of web pages already. I’ve learned CSS, and HTML pretty good and we’re just starting Java Script now,” said Patrom.

To qualify, inmates must, within a year of their release date, have a high school diploma or GED and pass the interview process.

“So, they’ll receive a certificate of completion through The Last Mile, and then one of the pieces with The Last Mile is they work to really help them prepare for their job market once they are released, and so it’s a lot of career coaching post-completion,” Stephanie Kuehn, North Dakota State Penitentiary education principal.

The program is made possible through a $250,000 contract funded by a federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grant administered by Job Service North Dakota.

“I never really saw myself doing anything like this because I’ve always seen myself working in a field like physical labor, like welding or construction, but it just was an opportunity to challenge myself, and I am really glad that I chose to do it,” said Patrom.

Patrom says he is scheduled to be released in a couple of months, and he says he wants to pursue a degree in computer science.

Currently, there are seven students participating in the year-long Last Mile program, and the state pen hopes to continue the program for years to come.

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