COLUMBIA, S.C. — Several women serving time at Camille Graham Correctional Center in Columbia have been spending the past year learning how to code so they can create a stable life for themselves and their families.
Friday afternoon, seven women still incarcerated and four others who have already been released received a diploma to congratulate them on completion of the certification program.
"They're part of a program of education, they get their degrees here," said Bryan Stirling, Director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections. "A coding class like this and a salary of $100,000 or even more, we know they are most likely not going to be coming back to prison."
The program is to certify students as full stack developers, programmers who work within software development and are knowledgeable in both the front end and back end of an application.
"Programs are why we're here, We really don't want people coming back to prison. We don't want them committing more crimes, and having more victims out there," Stirling said. "We know programs work. Our numbers show it. Our statistics show it."
A salary and a career are the reward for one inmate who decided to chase after the coursework and has now completed it. "It's very exciting," she said. "I'm very grateful for the chance of a second life. I learned a lot, and I actually have a job already lined up."
She plans to start her new job in January, a month after she gets out. But her path came with challenges that she is proud of overcoming. "It has been a very challenging road," she said. "It wasn't easy, of course. We had quarantine and stuff like that, but we kept pushing and kept working and studying. It's been a very bumpy road."
Stirling is hopeful those who got their diplomas won't be returning.
"They will be self-sufficient, have their careers," Stirling said. "This is not just a job, but a career path. This is a career path where maybe they can start their own company and pay taxes and things like that."