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Even Silicon Valley's Prison Inmates Have Their Own Startup Incubator 88

Posted by samzenpus
from the prison-angel-funding dept.
pigrabbitbear writes "There's a specific and stereotypical set of activities that spring to mind when you imagine what prison inmates do with their spare time. If there's a yard, they probably hang out, lift weights, get in fights, organize gangs. If there's not a yard, they might read books, write letters, get in fights, organize gangs. They don't write business plans and get giddy over startup ideas. But that's exactly what's happening at San Quentin State Prison, about an hour north of Silicon Valley. For the first time this year, the Last Mile program at the maximum security facility helped five inmates learn the ins and outs of social media and entrepreneurship in an effort to connect those who've been inside for several years with the technological reality of life on the outside. The tricky part about the future forward program is that many of its participants have never used a computer, and, since prison regulations forbid any contact with the outside world, won't be able to use one until they've served their sentences."
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Even Silicon Valley's Prison Inmates Have Their Own Startup Incubator

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  • So so called "Social Medial Experts" really are crooks? I knew it!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They seriously can't set up a local network so they can skype/email/whatever between stations at at their computer lab? Run blog software that is served locally so they can try creating content and replying? Learn how to use FTP, Gopher, irc, etc.

    Maybe they can't do Facebook, but can't they learn everything else this way?

    • Re:Local network? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday July 16, 2012 @04:52PM (#40666969)
      I don't know what it's like at that particular prison, but I know that in some parts of the US being too nice to prisoners results in either the locals getting upset that you are being 'soft' or the state politicians getting involved to make sure the prisoners are properly miserable and mistreated. There seems to be a natural instinct for justice, or at least a desire to see more suffering inflicted upon wrongdoers regardless of the impact on rehabilitation and reoffending. It seems people don't want to see prisoners turned straight so much as they want to see prisoners lives properly destroyed, even if this leaves them no option but to return to crime upon their release.
      • by petsounds (593538)

        No, I think most people want to see prisoners rehabilitated, though this is hard to follow through on when they are released into the same economic and cultural mess that got them into trouble in the first place.

        What I think people don't want is to see prisoners be provided things like cable TVs with their tax money, when they can't even afford such a luxury themselves.

        Then there are private prisons, which don't want to see prisoners rehabilitated at all because that takes away a "resource" from their indus

        • Re:Local network? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by s73v3r (963317) <s73v3r@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday July 16, 2012 @06:45PM (#40667873)

          What I think people don't want is to see prisoners be provided things like cable TVs with their tax money

          Cable TV keeps prisoners docile and distracted. Distracted and docile prisoners are much easier to guard, and cause far less problems.

          I would bet that providing them Cable TV actually saves the prison, and therefore the taxpayer, money over the long run (assuming it's not a private prison).

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Learn how to use FTP, Gopher, irc, etc.

      Have you just come out of prison after twenty years?

  • by Midnight_Falcon (2432802) on Monday July 16, 2012 @02:43PM (#40665851)
    Startup incubates you!
  • No problemo (Score:5, Funny)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday July 16, 2012 @02:46PM (#40665881)

    The tricky part about the future forward program is that many of its participants have never used a computer

    This was not a problem in dotcom bubble 1.0, I'm not thinking it'll be a problem in dotcom bubble 2.0.

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday July 16, 2012 @02:51PM (#40665915)

    I have never understood why prisoners should be forbidden from using an *offline* computer. Okay, so maybe they're blocked from the internet--but couldn't they at least learn the stuff they could do offline? Not even letting older prisoners understand how a modern computer even WORKS puts them so far behind the times that it's pretty unlikely they'll ever catch up.

    • by preaction (1526109) on Monday July 16, 2012 @02:54PM (#40665943)

      Isn't that part of the punishment/revenge we want to inflict on those in prison? Never being able to function in society again, so they reoffend and stay the hell out of the way of the good, righteous, god-fearing folk.

    • by tomhath (637240)
      FTA:

      3) Practical Technology Training Provide basic computer training in the critical software tools that are utilized in today’s business sector. Access to the internet is NOT required for this training.

      The headline and blog entry are wrong.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You forgot that the US prison system is privatized with 48 states signing a contract that they will make sure all prisons at at least 90% full.

      In the past, penology 101 was about rehabilitating, where the inmate had a chance at a job once out. Then it was the incapacitation aspect, where a crook wasn't on the streets. Finally the deterrence aspect of "oh shit, if I do this, I'll end up behind bars."

      Now, the goal is simple: The goal is to warehouse every warm body put in the system for the rest of their l

      • by TheSpoom (715771)

        48 states signing a contract that they will make sure all prisons at at least 90% full.

        Can you cite / link to that contract?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Judges know this, but are forced to have a conviction ratio or else they will be replaced come election season by a judge who will convict.

        Fail. Epic fail. In the USA, judges don't convict people, juries do. It's prosecutors that have to worry about a conviction rate, not judges. Step away from the keyboard, go back to school and stop cutting your Social Studies classes to post ignorant slop on Slashdot.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          the vast majority of cases never make it to jury, so there. =P
          • the vast majority of cases never make it to jury, so there. =P

            citation please. and all of them at least have the option to have trial. maybe the ones that plea out do so because they commit the crime but they don't want as serve as long of a term as they would probably get if they go to trial.

    • by crankyspice (63953) on Monday July 16, 2012 @04:25PM (#40666759)

      I have never understood why prisoners should be forbidden from using an *offline* computer.

      Actually, they're not, at least in California. I personally know several inmates who are taking college courses "behind bars." The computers aren't Internet-connected, and the instructor collects the flash drives they store their work on between classes, but they have access to computers for educational purposes. Some inmate clerks also have access to computers (non-networked) for typing and other clerical tasks.

      In the federal system, they're even experimenting with the very limited and locked down TRULINCS [bop.gov] email system for inmates...

      What's not accurate is the summary's claim that "prison regulations forbid any contact with the outside world." Inmates routinely contact the outside world through telephone calls, letters, and contact and/or non-contact (and in California and New York, for most inmates, the possibility of "family" a/k/a "trailer" a/k/a/ "conjugal") visits...

      On a related topic, anyone remember the Wired article on Roy Wahlberg [wired.com]? "Roy Wahlberg hacked a man to death, then hacked his way into a million-dollar software business behind bars."

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday July 16, 2012 @02:56PM (#40665967)

    helped five inmates learn

    5. Five. 1 2 3 4 5. That would be "five". Given any arbitrary selection criteria, the membership count of the set of prisoners X in that selection criteria set are the natural numbers from 0 to 5 inclusive. Come on /. after you add UTF-8 how about MathML?

    many of its participants have never used a computer

    Why the vagueness? OK we're operating from five. Remember paper logic puzzles? I used to turn them into prolog statements and let the solver solve them. This was back when a XT with turbo prolog was cutting edge. But I digress. OK its /. logic puzzle time. Rule out 0 because they would have skipped this topic. Rule out 1 because they would have wrote "a" and rule out 5 because they would have written "all". We can rule out 2 because they would have written "a couple" unless they avoided that phrase WRT prison sex and so forth. Which is more, "many" or "several". I believe the informal ranking order is "many" is greater than "several" so of the remaining options 3 or 4, we can circle "4" as the answer.

    Thats how I figured out exactly 4 inmates have never used a computer.

    • by CatsupBoy (825578)
      This post is the only good thing going for this article....

      Let me add that "many" simply means the greater part of, so 3 or 4 could be the answer. If they had said "some" I could believe that to have been 2 or 3. But since the point was to emphasize how little the group knew, If the number was 4 I think they would have preferred to say "most".

      So, my take is the actual number is 3.
      • Let me add that "many" simply means the greater part of...

        It does not mean any such thing, except possibly in your imagination. "Many" means:

        1: consisting of or amounting to a large but indefinite number

        2: being one of a large but indefinite number

        So I'm inclined to judge the rest of your post as being of equally dubious value.

        • by vlm (69642)

          Hmm so did he have "many" or "several" dubious statements in his post. I'm thinking exactly three, which would imply the word "several" ...

  • That pretty much describes behavior on the Internet to me.

    Those folks should have no problems on the outside.

  • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Monday July 16, 2012 @03:25PM (#40666257) Journal

    The incentives of the system reward high occupancy. If there were more funding for wardens and prisons who had lower recidivism rates then there'd be less of a clamour for tougher sentencing laws funded by the prison industrial complex, America wouldn't have such an obscenely high incarceration rate, and there'd be a lot less crime committed by inmates after release since there would have been more investment in rehabilitation.

    • That and the fact that it rarely works, unless by "rehabilitation" you mean "execution" which is 100% effective and which I would recommend for all armed robbers, con men and wealthy people who double-park.

      • That and the fact that it rarely works, unless by "rehabilitation" you mean "execution" which is 100% effective and which I would recommend for all armed robbers, con men and wealthy people who double-park.

        Oh really? And how, pray tell, does executing predominantly black people, many of whom may be innocent, prevent crime?

        • by sumdumass (711423)

          Well, if we are limiting the conversations explicitly to the recidivism rates, it appears to be about 60% in the US and 50% in the UK. Let's assume it is 50%.on average for the whole. Wikipedia lists the recidivism rates for burglary to be about 70% which would include armed robbery and 74% for larcenist which would include con men but lets drop the number for argument's sake.

          From that, we can assume that about 50 out of every 100 people imprisoned for armed robbery and or larceny, regardless of being black

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            So on the face alone, executing people convicted of armed robbery would reduce armed robbery crime rates about 25% without regard to race that you injected.

            Once you start executing people for armed robbery, you end up doing it for stealing a loaf of bread too. As a result, the murder rate goes up, as people adopt the "might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb" attitude, and don't have any scruples about killing bystanders, witnesses, etc.

            The race point is that if you have a disproportionate number of black men in prison, you will end up with a disproportionate number of black men being executed, regardless of whether they are sentenced equally.

            • by sumdumass (711423)

              I'm not advocating killing people for armed robbery. I'm just showing it is only a matter of math because there are repeat offenders who offend after being released.

              The race issue might very well reflect a problem with enforcement of laws and sentencing bias, but it really isn't an issue in this hypothetical situation. The disproportionate amount of blacks or minorities populating the prisons does not necessarily reflect the conviction rates of non blacks who might get off with lesser sentences. Remember. t

        • If you don't stop at the black people but kill all humans then crime would be solved.
    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      course a high percentage of this problem is in for a petty crime involving a plant.

      • Which is just stupid. Plain and simple.

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        Do you really go to prison in the US for low level possession of weed?
        • Generally not if it is a first-time offense, but many people have gone to prison as a result of possession of small amounts of weed if they were either on probation or if there are multiple offenses. In a few states they have decriminalized varying amounts of weed making it essentially a traffic ticket, but in the majority of states it is still a crime punishable by jail time.
  • eShank (Score:3, Funny)

    by bradorsomething (527297) on Monday July 16, 2012 @03:40PM (#40666411)
    Here at eShank, we match you with one of over 500 prison facilities, based on our comprehensive matching technology and a court-directed legal system. It doesn't matter if you're a child molester or an arsonist with a penchant for old-folks homes... you're gonna love eShank!

    Disclaimer: you probably really won't love eShank
  • Seems pretty legit! They've been able to cook there for a long time, might as well have hot yoga and startup classes. Also, the location is fabulous for this, all they have to do is dial up some of the biggest VC's in the biz, just down the road in Tiburon! A lot better than when they had to write their startup ideas on a paper airplane and throw them in the direction of Tom Perkins' house or try folding one that'll make it to the Embarcadero!
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      People just are clueless about high tech. High tech is not rampant with entrepreneurs. The vast majority of high tech people are workers, not the people who bet their life savings and family on a high risk roll of dice. Entrepreneurs are not everywhere you look here, despite a recent radio call in show that seemed to imply that was the "culture" here. Startups are a moronic thing to expect freed convicts to be involved with, they don't have any equity to put on the craps table to start anything, and whe

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Entrepreneurs are not everywhere you look here, despite a recent radio call in show that seemed to imply that was the "culture" here.

        An entrepreneur is just a normal person without the imagination to see beyond making money.

        Making money is not that difficult if you don't do anything else in your life except work.

  • This is what we were missing -- violent criminals in position of control over other people!

    Can we, please, have LESS "entrepreneurs"?

  • by moniker127 (1290002) on Monday July 16, 2012 @11:13PM (#40669337)
    San Quentin, I hate every last mile of you.
  • Let me guess: They're in for computer crimes?

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