Three years ago Chris Redlitz didn't know much about the incarceration system, what he did know was technology. After a tutoring project at the historic San Quentin State Prison in San Francisco he realized the true potential in the inmates and would come to form The Last Mile.
The Last Mile is a program co-founded by Redlitz designed much like a technology accelerator to provide training and technology skills for prison inmates.
Redlitz recognized that inmates today would be coming out in a world that has changed immensely by the influence of technology and digital media. His role as a founding partner of Transmedia Capital, an investment and advisory group focused on early stage, capital efficient companies that provide technology and services, moved him to start a program that not only helped inmates learn to utilize technology, but how to create a business opportunity out of it.
“The Last Mile is set up much like a technology accelerator,” Redlitz says. “They go through a business plan development, find a passion and build a tech component. It concludes with a demo day where they present to an audience including Venture Capitalists.”
At demo day each inmate has five minutes to pitch his product that was required to have a technology element. The fact that several men have successfully participated is an incredible task having had to build technology without ever using it or knowing exactly what it Â is and means today.
In addition to business and product development, the Last Mile is also directly connecting inmates with social media. Although, the inmates are not allowed access to the Internet, they engage longhand while interns post to Twitter, Facebook, Quora and other social mediums. It isnât as quick of a process, but they are able to express themselves and understand the idea of social media.
Being part of The Last Mile isnât something every inmate can be part of. Those who are interested have to complete an application process, complete the TRUST or MOMAS program, enroll in the Prison University Project, and be recommended by an administrator at the San Quentin prison.
The program typically looks for those who donât have much time left to their sentence, but itâs not necessarily what will make or break the decision.
“We want guys that we are preparing in the near future to be released from prison,” Redlitz says. We look for inmates that have a year left, although some do have more time. We are trying to create an eco-system within the prison.”
It may come as surprise, but there is a definite interest within the prison to be part of this program. The Last Mile has received over 100 applicants. Redlitz says there is a real desire from the inmates to learn and create new opportunities upon their release.
“They are smart, eager, and absorb information very quickly,” Redlitz says. “These are all components you want in entrepreneurs. We get people who actually care, will work and day night and are dedicated to the program.”
Although the Last Mile is very new, they are growing rapidly.
“We’ve had a positive outcome thus far,” Redlitz says. “Outside businesses are willing to participate and the prison system has been very receptive. We actually have more demand than we can physically fulfill.”
The Last Mile is in talks with different prisons with hopes to scale to different prisons across the country to Â give those who will later enter back into society the chance to succeed and with the skillset to do it.
To learn more about The Last Mile Program visitÂ TheLastMileSq.com.