Last week San Quentin Prison played host to a day of sales-pitch presentations by participants in The Last Mile program.
The Last Mile program was set up by accelerator KickLabs, and is funded by its founders Chris Redlitz of AdAuction and Beverly Parenti of First Virtual holdings. The idea behind the program is that through entrepreneurship, convicts can be prepared for employment once they leave prison. Seven inmates made presentations at last week’s meeting.
During their presentations, the inmates pitched things like Fitness Monkey (a startup aimed to help drug abusers replace substances with “a healthy addiction to fitnes,”), At The Club (an app that lets jazz music fans stream concerts), and TechSage (a company which would turn newly released ex-cons into mobile app developers so they’d have jobs and stay out of prison).
According to TechCrunch, Crisfino Kenyatta Leal, one of the first inmates to go through the program said, “It makes me feel like I’m already contributing to society.” Leal presented at the program’s inaugural event in 2012.
Even more impressive than the prisoner’s pitches was the fact that they were able to come up with them without using a resource that many of us take for granted: the Internet. With so much money spent on incarceration in the United States, it would seem logical that some of that cash would go to providing web access for prisoners so that they could better themselves.
“20 years in prison cost $1 million, but inmates are released with no training,” said Last Mile co-founder Beverly Parenti. “It’s a really bad investment.”
The Last Mile plans to eventually expand to other prisons beyond San Quentin. Fans of the program believe that The Last Mile can not only help prisoners stay on the straight and narrow but that the potential for inmates having new and innovative ideas is truly an untapped resource.
“Their ideas haven’t been corrupted by others’ approaches. In here your mind can just roam,” says Tulio Cardozo.
He knows from experience. After seven years behind bars, Cardozo began mentoring Last Mile participants. He also built his own program called Collaborative Benefit, which is like a LinkedIn for former inmates.