Montana’s Department of Corrections is exploring the potential to train inmates in computer programming. Montana Correctional Enterprises Division Administrator Gayle Lambert said the goal of MCE is to better prepare inmates to be successful when they leave prison.

"We some basic computer skills that we teach the inmates and we can do some coding that's web-based like website development," Lambert said. "We just really felt that if we could look at this program,  this might be something that we could bring in to a select number of inmates, both at the men's and women's prisons."

"We’re interested in this program because it gives inmates a better chance of finding meaningful work and a more realistic opportunity to pay back any restitution they owe their victims, while also helping employers find the trained employees their businesses need," DOC Director Mike Batista said.

DOC staff recently toured the educational and vocational programs offered in two California prisons, Folsom and San Quentin.

Staff observed on group that was writing an application to report how chickenpox was once destroyed but is now on the rise once again due to lack of immunizations.

"What we saw in the two California prisons confirmed that the long-term goals we have for training Montana inmates in computer programming can, with adequate staff resources, become a reality," Administrator John Daugherty said. "If it hadn’t been for their prison uniforms, it would have been hard to tell the San Quentin inmates from any other group of programmers I’ve seen working on high-level coding."

Lambert said the Montana DOC is just getting started in the planning phase of this program. She said nothing would start until at least spring semester.

"We need to have infrastructure, we need to have the classroom space, identifying inmates, and actually getting the structure set up," Lambert said. "But frankly the biggest deal is finding the resources for the educator. That resource for two teachers is going to be key."

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