Seven months ago, Chris Schuhmacher was inmate number T31014, serving out the tail-end of a 17-year murder sentence at California's infamous San Quentin prison overlooking San Francisco Bay.
Today, just months after his release, Schuhmacher blends in with the Silicon Valley crowd as a software engineering intern at a bustling tech firm, ditching his blue prison uniform for a sweater and khakis, and his cell for a cubicle.
Schuhmacher's transformation from convict to coder is a radical shift for a man who spent so many years in jail. It's also a standout success story for nonprofit The Last Mile, which teaches computer coding to inmates at some of California's toughest prisons.
Founded by venture capitalist Chris Redlitz and his wife Beverly Parenti, The Last Mile costs roughly $200,000 per year to run, and is funded privately and with the sale of prison products like license plates. At the five facilities where it currently operates, the program has the unique challenge of teaching inmates — some of whom have been incarcerated since before the dotcom boom — how to code on computers that aren't even connected to the Internet.
Despite the technical hurdles, some graduates of the program have found real-world success in a competitive industry after leaving prison, and of the twenty-or-so alumni who have been released, none have returned.
Schuhmacher said he has no plans to be the first, and the coding skills he learned while behind bars have already laid the groundwork for a career outside prison walls. But finding his way to his current job at Fandom, an entertainment site where super-fans can read and post content on everything from "Game of Thrones" to "Pokemon," has presented challenges of its own.
"For the longest time while I was inside, my biggest fear was what's life going to be like for me after prison, who was going to give me a chance? I was going to have this stigma of being an ex-felon," he told CNBC recently.