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Sha’s story occurs within the context of a US criminal justice system that metes out a dubious, racist form of justice, is full of trauma, is ineffective at preventing violence, & does a terrible job of supporting healing & restitution for people who have been harmed. #PyCon2019
It’s a system that we have an obligation to confront and dismantle, and that the tech community has not historically engaged with at a level commensurate with the exceptional skills and resources we have to contribute to its transformation.
Continuing on the stage set by Sha’s personal story, I asked the @pycon audience to tackle a question with me that I've heard countless times: "I know the prison system is broken, but I'm just a programmer. What can I do about it?" #PyCon2019 Slide: Slide:
First, we need a tractable framing within which we can articulate concrete goals.

My systemic goal is decarceration: changes to how we as a society think about crime and punish that lead to legislative changes that lead to decarceration— fewer people in prison, for less time. Systemic and individual goals: decarceration and successful re-entry.
One worthwhile focus for individual impact is successful re-entry: everyone needs a safe, stable place to live, and money to take care of themselves and their families. Housing and a job keep people from re-entering the system.
Within that framing, what are some specific actions we can take as individuals, technologists, and employers? Technologists *should* be great allies: we have access to jobs, skills, and money.What are some concrete actions we can take as individuals, technologists, and employers?
Individual action:

First, don't make this more complicated than it needs to be: people need money when they get out of prison.

In California, you’re literally given $200 and a ride to a bus stop if nobody is coming to pick you up. No cell phone, no computer. As individuals, we can 1) provide direct support for people leaving prison, 2) support job training and re-entry, and 3) be politically engaged.
1. Provide direct support to people leaving prison (e.g. money, equipment)

2. Support job training and re-entry programs (inside and outside of prison)

3. Make decarceration a part of your politics. Specifically: vote in district attorney elections Describing prison programs at San Quentin, and what Sha wishes existed.
District attorneys decide what criminal charges get filed, who gets diversion.

We are excessively punitive partially because we elect DAs who want to be, and who think they will be re-elected by being “tough on crime”. Decarceration requires DAs who believe in and prioritize it.
The @ACLU has a great explainer on the power of district attorneys, and how they have been historically out of line with the beliefs of voters in California because not enough people pay attention to their election: meetyourda.org. Screenshot from the ACLU's Meet your DA website.
Actions as technologists:

1. Support tech-focused job training and re-entry

2. Make your local programming "bootcamps" inclusive to the formerly-incarcerated (think about content, community, stipends)

3. Provide tech support for local reform orgs Actions as technologists: 1) Support tech-focused job training and re-entry, 2) Make your local programming
The cutting edge of re-entry training is The Last Mile (@TLM), which brought the 1st programming curriculum to US prisons. Students learn HTML, CSS, JavaScript, & Python, through books, offline copies of Stack Overflow, and a lot of persistence, since there is no internet access.
This small, vanguard initiative exists in some prisons in CA & a few other states, but isn’t available to most incarcerated people. Interest is high. Graduates are getting out & getting software jobs. What would it look like if more incarcerated people had this opportunity? @TLM
Actions as employers: HIRE PEOPLE WITH RECORDS.

Especially people with felony convictions, including for violent crimes.

Most time served in prisons is for violent crimes. Meaningful decarceration requires confronting that reality as a society. Hire people with records
What else:

1. Background checks: ask how they are used at your company.

2. Entry-level roles: remove fake, unnecessary prerequisites that will exclude qualified people with records.

3. Active outreach: partner with local re-entry programs to create hiring pipelines. Hire people with records.
Don't listen to me, though. Listen to 4 system-impacted people who I work with every day at @PilotHQ.

Part I (splitting for Twitter video length limit):
Part II:

(As you watch, consider that Eddie, Emile, and Simon served a combined 50+ years as juvenile offenders)
With that, I asked everyone in the @pycon audience to commit to 3 concrete actions with me: Final call to action.
1. Voting. Everyone who is eligible to vote, who lives in a place where DAs are elected (which is most places), will be informed, active voters in the next round of DA elections, and we'll ask the same of our friends and family.
2. Background checks. When we return to work and school, we'll ask what our policies are. Do we conduct background checks on job applicants? What do we do with that information? Privileged folks: will you make this something you ask about when you interview with companies?
3. By @pycon 2020, each of us will help someone who got out of prison recently get a job.

That doesn't mean barreling into a system with no context. Implicit in that goal is a commitment to building relationships & credibility with people in local prisons and re-entry programs. Final call to action.Let's do some systems engineering that matters.
Finally, remember Breana from the video? Her husband Antwan (incidentally, the sound designer for @earhustlesq) is coming home this fall after serving 13 years.
Breana, like so many partners of incarcerated people, who are disproportionately women of color, is raising money to support his re-entry.

During the talk, @pycon raised $9,000 for Antwan's re-entry fund. #PyCon2019

gofundme.com/antwan-williams Antwan's GoFundMe: before.Antwan's GoFundMe: after.
What next? Focused, sustained action. Recommended reading:

1. Locked In by @JohnFPfaff: a rigorous analysis of the causes of mass incarceration and the implications for how we handle violent crime.

2. Charged by @emilybazelon: follows 2 cases exemplifying the power of DAs.
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