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Alana Andres thought she’d get 22 years, after a series of robberies in November and December of 2014, when the then-22-year-old, addicted to opiates, targeted local hotels. Instead, she was sentenced to five years. She saw it as a second chance, an opportunity to change. 

So a year and a half after Andres began her time at the Washington Correction Center for Women in Gig Harbor, she enrolled in Unloop’s computer development program. The nonprofit teaches inmates the basics—HTML, CSS, and complex programming like JavaScript. 

Unloop began as a small pilot class just over two years ago and has since grown to graduate 15 students, with 50 currently enrolled, says cofounder Lindsey Wilson. In partnership with Tacoma and Edmonds community colleges, professional instructors teach IT courses with 15 to 20 incarcerated felons, and at the end of the year those inmates earn a certificate for an accredited web development program. Five of them have since been released, including Andres—who was released two years early on good behavior—and two are now enrolled in computer science degree programs at community colleges. 

Three out of four people released from prison get arrested again within five years, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The majority don’t have a high school diploma or GED. Unloop’s goal: Empower those inmates with competitive skills in a high-wage industry and a support system after prison. 

Following her release, Andres became the first Unloop graduate to score a full-time paid coding internship. Unloop, she says, saved her life. In fact, she advised a friend in prison, who had the option to leave the correction center early for work release, to stay—just so she could finish off one more quarter of Unloop. 

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