Software and hard time

Texas prisons take a byte out of crime with a computer rehab program

Computer equipment waiting to be repaired lines several huge racks from floor to ceiling in the factory. The repaired and reconfigured equipment is transferred or sold at bare-bones prices to school districts, political subdivisions, or state agencies. The irreparable and obsolete equipment is broken down and sold off as scrap with the money reinvested in TCI.

Ironically, though, the inmates don't have computer privileges. They work on these machines all day long but don't have Internet access or even word-processing opportunities. But that doesn't seem to faze any of them.

Before Paden got involved with the program, he was simply passing time.

"I couldn't even type," he says. Now he does very tech-specific networking and programming. A Dallas native, Paden, 40, has served 10 years of a 40-year sentence for murder. His scheduled release date is not until September 2029, yet he says he has already been approached by some local Dallas companies with standing offers for when he gets out.

"A couple of them have starting offers of between $50,000 and $70,000," Paden says. "I learned a skill that gave me a leg up. It'll be a survival skill when I get out."

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