Learn to Code, Unless You’re in Prison

Apparently, while we are busy telling anyone and everyone who’s job is at risk due to technology to “learn to code”, if you’re in prison in certain states looking to make a better life for yourself after you get out, too bad:

According to public records obtained by the Salem Reporter, the Oregon Department of Corrections has banned dozens of books related to programming and technology as they come through the mail room, ensuring that they don’t get to the hands of prisoners.

At least in official department code, there is no blanket ban on technology-related books. Instead, each book is individually evaluated to assess potential threats. Many programming-related books are cited as “material that threatens,” often including the subject matter (“computer programming”) as justification.

Unfortunately for Oregon inmates some of the “potential threats” include books about using Excel and Windows 10, so good luck with getting a job and staying out of prison when you get out.

But it’s not just Oregon:

Oregon is not alone in restricting prisoner access to tech-focused books. Ohio and Michigan, too, have banned books that teach programming. In Kansas, technology-focused books also feature in the thousands of titles banned from prisons.

What weird is that the rationale behind these bans mostly centers on the risk of an inmate hacking the prison’s computer systems, despite the fact that these same inmates can be under 24 hour surveillance. Seems to me that there’s plenty of ways to curtail a prison inmate’s ability to spend a lot of time hacking the prison network that don’t involve making sure they can’t read about technology. In fact, if we are serious about actual reform of prisoners, we should encourage them to learn new, in demand, skills.

Maybe some of the employees should take a look at some of those books and learn something about security. 😉

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