Mugo Odigwe reporting


STOCKTON (CBS13) — It’s a move to help California youth succeed. A tech program that boasts lowest return rate to prison in the nation officially opened at the O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton.

“I’m trying to not only make my parents proud but proof a lot of people wrong,” said Jackson Chand, who expects to leave the O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility by the end of the year.

“I’m planning to start my own businesses,” Chand said.

He says that’s why he’s grateful for Code.7370, the computer coding program that’s now available at the facility.

“Especially in today’s world, it’s huge,” Chand said.

The program operates under the supervision of the California Prison Industry Authority. Their instructors, people from Google and a non-profit organization known as Last Mile, help offenders learn about basic computer skills, coding instructions, and website design.

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“Before this, I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do. Now I got options. I got choices and a better future,” said Damani Watts who’s also learning to code.

The goal is to give youth offenders a clear pathway to jobs and success once they leave O.H. Close.

“If we’re going to change the criminal justice system, let’s start at the feeder system which is the juvenile justice system,” said Governor Gavin Newsom.

Newsom says programs like this are about being smart on crime.

“This program has been at scale for some time in the adult system and now getting into the juvenile system that’s long overdue,” he said.

Aly Tamboura, a graduate of the coding program in the adult system says it works.

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“The program completely changed the trajectory of my life and a lot of the lives of the men that I knew when I was incarcerated at San Quentin,” he said.

A pre-apprentice construction labor program which partners with local unions will also open at O.H. Close.

For Jackson, who’s part of the coding course, the program has made him determined to continue further and attend college when he gets out.

“A lot of us are going to be able to get out and, from what I’m hearing, get a six-figure income,” he said.

Governor Newsom wants to transform the juvenile justice system and focus on health and human services enough that it will save money and lives in the long run.

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