As Michael has discovered, a criminal record doesn’t have to mean the end of your working life but the chance to start a new career that you may never have had the opportunity to consider before.

 

18 weeks ago I was released from prison – a prison sentence that has changed my life.

Life in prison is extremely mundane with every possible job being pretty much the same. Mind numbing boredom. I was transferred to a Cat C prison with 7 months remaining on my sentence. I went through the normal intake procedure and then was given an application form with the same old jobs and courses. As I like to keep busy and I’m a curious person by nature, I’ve probably worked in nearly every job possible and completed many of the courses on offer. However, on this particular form I immediately noticed my two options; a tiling course which I hadn’t done yet and a course I’d never seen before called Code 4000.

I was intrigued. I knew the tiling course would land me a job upon release but I couldn’t help wondering what Code 4000 was. I asked a member of staff on the wing who said:

Some sort of computer thing”

I’ve always been interested in coding but never had the chance nor the time to pursue it. Anyway, I called my partner and asked her which I should choose. She instantly replied “that’s a silly question, do the coding”. So I did.

Code 4000 was refreshing from day one. The moment I walked into the office space I felt like I’d walked out of prison. The space was inviting, intriguing, bright and open. They even had a small area to relax when the coding got too much. I was truly amazed. I knew instantly that I’d made the right choice.

The first day I was given a fancy desk, computer and two large monitors. My initial task was to build a small gaming app (built for 7-year olds) to see if I could overcome problems on my own. This introduced me to the basics of coding. Once I’d learnt the basic building blocks I moved on, learning a wealth of information from the basics of computer science to HTML and CSS. By this time my head had started to spill over. I hit a wall of information and didn’t know what to do. The best advice I got from one of my tutors was simple “Don’t try and learn it all, learn the basics then choose the path that suits you”. At the time I remember thinking “I have no idea what that even means”.

I eventually found my feet and got my teeth into some in-depth learning. I started making apps and websites. Then we got to do commercial work with charities where we received actual commercial feedback from designers and clients. It may sound a little daft but learning in prison is a great surrounding. No phones ringing, no emails to distract you. Focus is the key and of course it distracts you from the harsh environment.

After I was released, I set up my company, Pink Umbrella Studio. I hit the ground running wanting to make a difference.

Our main focus is to make websites for charities at absolute minimum cost and take away the stress of building a website. A portion of the websites we build go back through the Code 4000 programme so people in prison get commercial feedback and can build a personal portfolio which will increase their chances of employment upon release.

My company has a simple business model – help charities, help offenders and lower the re-offending rates.

If you have a project which you think we can help with then please visit our website.

By Michael

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