AWS Public Sector Blog

Empowering formerly incarcerated citizens through coding skills training, mentorship, and job support

“I’m constantly confronted with the fact that there is a certain perception of me as someone who is dangerous and untrustworthy because I’ve been incarcerated. So we really have to put our energy into this work to uplift the communities that have been affected by systemic racism and mass incarceration and to allow people like myself to have a future and to dream that there could be something better for us and that we can fulfill our potential. We can’t do that without having a pathway to meaningful employment.”

– Aedan Macdonald, Program Manager, Justice Through Code, The Center for Justice at Columbia University

Did you know that the unemployment rate for the formerly incarcerated is five times higher than the general population? The implications of this stat are significant—affecting not only an individual’s livelihood—but also their family and future. Research shows that post-release unemployment is the most significant predictor of eventual recidivism. That’s why programs like Columbia University’s Justice Through Code are so important.

It was my privilege to share the stage at re:Invent 2020 this week with Justice Through Code program manager Aedan Macdonald, who shared his personal journey post-incarceration and more on the program’s mission. Watch the replay of this session.

Justice Through Code is a free, semester-long program, developed in partnership with the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School and the Center for Justice at Columbia University, providing formerly incarcerated individuals with technical and interpersonal skills training, mentorship, and job placement support. The program’s goal is to equip graduates with the skills needed for them to emerge as competitive applicants for careers in technology. No prior tech experience is necessary. Through live instruction and coursework, participants learn the fundamentals of programming in Python. The curriculum also includes networking opportunities for participants to understand potential career pathways and gain industry connections. Participants are also provided with coaching on career and interpersonal skills including public speaking and negotiation skills, and resume writing.

AWS is proud to provide financial support and devices to help the program scale. We know that skills training can unlock meaningful opportunities for people, and are proud to support this program that is having such a positive impact on people’s lives and working to change perceptions around returning citizens.

Learn more about Justice Through Code.