The rapid pace of technological change means that thousands of inmates leave prison every year ignorant of the modern Internet world, reports the Associated Press. David McHaney, who spent nearly four years behind bars for drug offenses, works at the New York City-based Osborne Association, which helps ex-prisoners rebuild their lives. He teaches them the basics of Internet and computer use, as well as how to create resumes and look for work. Says Osborne director Elizabeth Gaynes: “We need our workforce to be computer literate. We do not have any entry-level jobs that do not require technical competence.”
The digital divide that affects the prison population is a wide one. The average inmate among the nation’s more than 2 million prisoners is a 34-year-old man without a high school diploma, said Christy Visher of the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. That means someone whose education ended in the 1980s, long before the technological transformation of the past decade. “Very few things in there are even close to state-of-the-art,” said Terry Reed, an Osborne instructor released from prison last year after 18 years. “They’re always behind the times. Nothing is kept current.” The skills inmates learn generally are geared toward helping the prisons function, not toward creating job skills valuable on the outside, said Debbie Mukamal of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.