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TDOC And TDHS Launch First Coding Program For Offenders And Families

Thursday, January 21, 2021 | 04:07pm
Photo of Offender Participating in Persevere Coding Program

WEST TENNESSEE – Tennessee has launched the first of its kind program in the country that teaches computer coding skills to justice involved men and women and their children. 

The Tennessee Department of Correction, in partnership with Persevere, a local non-profit organization, is offering software programming training to justice involved individuals giving them marketable job skills on their path to successful reentry.  In conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) and its nationally recognized Two Generation (2Gen) approach, TDOC and Persevere developed the Pathway to Persevere program which now allows the children of those individuals to receive coding training as well.

The program originally started with incarcerated individuals at three prisons in West Tennessee before expanding to those on community supervision and their families. To date, 28 people have graduated from the adult Persevere program and are currently working in the technology field.  “Youth participants of the program will be provided laptops and transportation,” according to Persevere Program Manager Stacey Books.  Wrap around services such as case management, onsite licensed clinical social workers, and employment specialists will also be offered to families.  “Our biggest goal is to not only make sure they learn to code software, but to make sure they receive any additional resources needed to assist with issues such as mental health.  We want to make sure that the entire household has the resources they need because we want them to be successful,” Books said.

TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker called the partnership a complete package that helps to move people toward success.  “A lot of children emulate the actions of their parents.  For these families to not only see their loved ones learning a marketable skill, but to also be able to participate with them, sets the entire family up for success,” Parker said. “Participants are learning a trade that the public demands, today and in the future, all while receiving pro-social support and the ability to earn a meaningful wage.  This partnership speaks to TDOC’S mission of preparing offenders to return home and preventing new victims.”

Pathway to Persevere is funded in part under a 2Gen Grant Contract with the State of Tennessee.  TDHS launched the 2Gen grant program in 2014 as part of its Two-Generation approach to addressing the needs of parents and children at the same time.  The department has since awarded grants to fund programs with more than 60 organizations and educational entities across the state.

“Pathway to Persevere is an example of how our Two Generation approach can help families grow beyond the vulnerabilities they face during the reentry process,” said TDHS Commissioner Clarence H. Carter.  “This program is providing valuable skills parents need to get good jobs in the tech industry and build a strong stable life with their children.”

Demarcus Williams, a Jr. Software Developer, was previously incarcerated at the Mark Luttrell Transition Center and has been in the program for two years.  “I am taking what I have learned and putting it into action. I’m getting paid to do what I love,” Williams said.  “Once I got out of prison, Persevere hired me, treated me like family, and taught me even more.  I am grateful.”

To be eligible for the Pathway to Persevere program, children of justice involved individuals must be between 11 and 17 years old.  Eligible adults must be currently incarcerated with a minimum of 12-24 months remaining on their sentences or under TDOC community supervision.  They must live in Shelby or the surrounding counties.

Watch our video at the link below for more information about our partnership with Persevere:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MXyhSWvA4U&feature=youtu.be&ab_channel=TennesseeDepartmentofCorrection

If media partners would like to schedule interviews in regards to this story, please contact Tylee Tracer at 629-215-0284 or by email.