In-depth: Man learns how to code in San Quentin prison, now works in Silicon Valley


SANTA CLARA COUNTY (KRON) -- Finding success in the Silicon Valley, and it comes right down to learning the code.

In-depth on Thursday night, KRON4's Ella Sogomonian reports on an unlikely tech employee and where he first learned to code.

It's another day of computer coding in Silicon Valley. The lifeblood of the tech industry has in turn given a second chance at life for Aly Tamboura.

"I definitely think that coding opened all these doors to opportunity," Tamboura said. "I think without coding those opportunities wouldn't be here."

Tamboura didn't learn the skill in college, but instead, in prison.

It was at San Quentin Prison where some may believe it to be the end of the road. But for Tamboura, that was the beginning of his journey just beyond these prison walls.

San Quentin is the first in the state to host a program called Code.7370, in partnership with non-profit The Last Mile and the California Prison Industry Authority.

An instructor, along with Silicon Valley mentors, teaches coding to qualified inmates.

"They are not their crime," instructor Jon Gripshover said. "They are individuals that have worked really hard to get to where they are. They're invested in their own success and their future and feel that at one point, they took away from their community, and it's time to give back."

It was at the prison where Tamboura learned to code with three years left in his 14-year sentence for assault.

It's also where he first met Mark Zuckerberg during a tour. Little did he know he would one day work for the Facebook CEO.

Tamboura now writes code at the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative that advocates for criminal justice reform.

"One of the things that incarceration does is take away your purpose," Tamboura said. "The Last Mile and learning to code gave me a purpose."

The hope is that with a good paying job, a former inmate will make life changes and stay out of prison forever.

There are more than 112,000 inmates in California prisons.

The State Department of Corrections reports it costs taxpayers $72,000 per year to house each person.

And just over 44 percent of those released are going right back in.

"When you hire somebody who is formerly incarcerated, you're actually helping public safety," Tamboura said. "You're helping so that person doesn't go out and commit another crime or recidivates, so it's kind of a win-win situation for employers."

The Last Mile reports of the nearly 40 graduates who were released from prison, all got jobs and none have gone back.

As for Tamboura, a new career and six-figure salary may be the ticket to staying out.


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