Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My first experience of prison

Today I visited the very excellent Computers for Schools project housed in Minnesota's Stillwater Correctional Facilities. I learned about this organization thanks to Gary who I met at the Tekne Awards Banquet last winter. The concept of the organization is simple and is win-win: inmates refurbish used computer equipment donated by Minnesota businesses and then this equipment is sold to schools. Their mission:
"To ensure that all Minnesota children in grades K-12 and children from historically under served populations have access to the computer technology needed to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence required for accomplished academic performance and career success in the knowledge economy."
Well, not only do they strive to achieve this but they also help inmates learn. There were about 20 inmates working on everything from hardware testing, disassembling, evaluating, recycling and of course upgrading and reassembling hardware. A few were sitting in front of terminals, with books opened, studying. It is an impressively calm and organized environment, especially considering the backgrounds of many of the workers.

The have all sorts of hardware that could be of use in our schools in general, and without their highly affordable products the GCoS project would be much smaller. Also, thanks to Gary for his idea about elevating the center--glass covered--area of the table to solve one of the pernicious design problems. Also, Tom helped build on this idea. Thanks also to Jim (as well as Gary and Tom) for showing me around and introducing me to their organization. It is uplifting to see places like this, unknown to many but plugging away, doing good.

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