back to article Brit prisoners to be kept on the straight and narrow with JavaScript and CSS

The UK's Department of Fun has gone public with plans to get prisoners skilled up for a world of code upon release rather than a life of, er, crime. The plan will see carefully vetted offenders sent through a four-stage process aimed at securing work behind keyboard, screen and mouse. The first stage of the course, devised by …

  1. Scott 53
    Thumb Up

    "A short C# shock"

    Well done for a Friday morning

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: "A short C# shock"

      Unfortunately privatised prisons are unlikely to be able to source cheap and chippy choppers and big black blocks from their mates at below military prices.

    2. Cederic

      Re: "A short C# shock"

      As someone that's religiously called it see-hash since its inception, including at a job interview for a role programming in it (for which I was offered the job) that joke missed me entirely the first time.

  2. Matthew Smith

    What could go wrong?

    Cue a murderous riot with one gang screaming 'React!' and the other bellowing 'Angular!'.

    Wouldn't happen with Python.

    1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

      Re: What could go wrong?

      Python 2 or Python 3 - splitter!!!

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: What could go wrong?

        That's why Python doesnt run in the browser - they learnt from JScript!

    2. richardcox13

      Re: What could go wrong?

      And then the question of editor will come up.

      "Editor Wars: this time they're inside!"

      PS. I wounder how the trainers approach the question of character escapes?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Coat

        Re: What could go wrong?

        I'll vi with you for my choice of editor.

        Maybe those from more northerly parts will eeemax, though a broad weegie might say gnu to that.

    3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: What could go wrong?

      "Tabs!"

      "Spaces!"

    4. livin' thing
      IT Angle

      Re: What could go wrong?

      Asyncio! Curio! Trio! Twisted!

      With Python, it's more gangs, more heartache.

  3. joeW

    JS and CSS

    Are they trying to get the poor bastards moved from the nick to the loony bin?

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: JS and CSS

      "You call this jQuery? Put him in solitary for a week!"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: JS and CSS

        That could actually be a way to incentivise some of the idiots out there: produce moderately sane code or get re-educated in prison.

        I wonder if there is enough space for the people who wrote Windows 10.

        :)

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: JS and CSS

      Depends how they react to it

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: JS and CSS

      I love it when people think JS and CSS are somehow a problem and not the environment!

      1. joeW

        Re: JS and CSS

        JS and CSS are my day-to-day bread and butter, so when I say it could send people to the loony bin I know whereof I speak!

  4. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    "Anyone convicted of sexual or online fraud offences will not be allowed on the course." Murder is OK then?

    They're obviously looking for someone to develop the next killer app.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Considering 'students' are from category C rehabilitation houses, I doubt there are many murderers among them though...

      1. LucasNorth

        there will be a fair few, those more than a decade or so into their sentence

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      The US already has the poster boy for that - Hans Thomas Reiser

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The next file-based system he needs is one arriving in a cake.

  5. Instinct46

    Haha at what point are the police going to be forced to be educated, because the criminals have all been overly educated in prison

    1. A.P. Veening

      Police education

      Forced education of the police is already long overdue for just the reason you gave.

  6. Simon Harris Silver badge

    Those prisoners still protesting their innocence.

    "It wasn't me, guv, I've been iframed"

  7. Rudolph Hucker the Third

    Don't let me catch you writing case-sensitive code, Fletcher.

    I won't.

    Won't what?

    Let you catch me .. sir.

  8. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Coat

    "Category 'C' Resettlement prison"

    That prison got the best language.

  9. Simon Ward

    I thought there were laws against 'cruel and unusual' punishment.

    Guess I was misinformed.

  10. SVV Silver badge

    of the 70 offenders who had taken part in the programme, none had gone on to reoffend

    I wouldn't reoffend either if I faced the prospect of having to do a Javascript and CSS course again if I got caught. It's a pretty good deterrent.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: of the 70 offenders who had taken part in the programme, none had gone on to reoffend

      But on a more serious note, they really want this scheme to succeed so the inmates chosen are very strongly vetted for suitability. I wonder if the vetting has more to do with the lack of re-offending than the subject matter of the course? Would using the exact same methods of selection and training but for, say, machine operators, or woodworking etc give the same re-offending rate?

      A relative who used to to do prison education said it was very poorly funded, and with little to no follow up. This course sounds very, very different to the run of the mill prison education

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: of the 70 offenders who had taken part in the programme, none had gone on to reoffend

        A relative who used to to do prison education said it was very poorly funded, and with little to no follow up.

        So..much like education and training anywhere else.

      2. Korev Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: of the 70 offenders who had taken part in the programme, none had gone on to reoffend

        I imagine that a suitable candidate for this course would be considerably brighter than the average prisoner too.

        Who "put" them there in the first place -->

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: of the 70 offenders who had taken part in the programme, none had gone on to reoffend

          They put THEMSELVES there - they are the criminals

  11. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Trollface

    the "joy" of JavaScript

    I'd plea bargain for the electric chair...

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: the "joy" of JavaScript

      "cruel and unusual" would probably be being forced to learn PHP. Additional punishments are available in having to learn all of the Drupal 5/6/7/8 API.

  12. Candy

    It's been done before...

    in the late 80s, early 90s I helped to deliver a program in the UK prison system that aimed to skill up offenders so they had attractive skills to offer upon release. The big driver then (and now?) is that if you get a released prisoner into work quickly, the chances of re-offending are reduced by an order of magnitude.

    Back then, it worked well for those we could get through the courses (limited both by the number of places and the aptitude/attitude of the participants) but the programme ran onto the rocks as we tried to scale it. It was difficult to get enough competent people in place to deliver the content given civil service pay rates.

    I wonder if the MOOC model might go some way to address that?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: It's been done before...

      I worked with a bloke who had been trained as a brickie in one of Her Majestie's Colleges. He went on to specialise in smash and grab!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's been done before...

      Would that be the NVQ word processing courses and the like with three inmates to each PC? Fair play to the teachers, they did a good job with some of those inmates, you are right about getting enough staff and also computers. I also wonder how many inmates will have the basic computer knowledge required to start doing these sorts of courses, granted it would only require basics but how many people have computers at home these days?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: It's been done before...

        "but how many people have computers at home these days?"

        Pretty much anyone who left school in the last 10 years will have the basics of using a computer already in their skillset, like reading and writing. And even many who left school up to 20 years ago may well have had at least some exposure to using computers at school

    3. Ogi

      Re: It's been done before...

      > The big driver then (and now?) is that if you get a released prisoner into work quickly, the chances of re-offending are reduced by an order of magnitude.

      How does that square up with the fact every single job I have ever applied for has a nice little section that asks "Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence" or words to that effect (sometimes they add "In the last 5 years"). And these are your run of the mill tech jobs, nothing special or security sensitive.

      Having never been in the nick I never have said "yes" to that question, but I can't help but think that saying yes won't help your chances of getting the job. After all, if HR get two candidates for a job with more or less equal competency, but one was convicted of a crime in the past, they are likely to play it safe and go with the candidate with no criminal history.

      I would go so far as to say that even if the ex-con was better than the other candidate, they still would avoid hiring them unless the company absolutely had no alternative.

      If rehabilitation into society is the end goal, I don't think forcing ex-cons to declare themselves as part of the application process will help integrate them. More likely to segregate and make it harder for them to get a normal job.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: It's been done before...

        "How does that square up with the fact every single job I have ever applied for has a nice little section that asks "Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence" or words to that effect (sometimes they add "In the last 5 years"). And these are your run of the mill tech jobs, nothing special or security sensitive."

        Depending on the crime and the sentence, you may not have to declare past convictions. The rehabilitation of offenders Act defines when convictions are "spent" and you no longer have to declare them. They may or may not show up in criminal records checks (enhanced or standard), depending on why the check is being done. (I've worked with people in this situation)

      2. macjules Silver badge

        Re: It's been done before...

        Having never been in the nick I never have said "yes" to that question, but I can't help but think that saying yes won't help your chances of getting the job

        The flaw in that logic is this: criminals don't obey the law. It's more or less a requirement for the job. They have no particular interest in making the streets safer for anyone except themselves.

        © Sir Pterry, Nightwatch

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    rehabilitation vs punishment

    As a Open University tutor, I regularly went into prisons to teach basic programming courses, ranging from open prisons, to high category ones (as one prison officer said once you need to rob banks to be in here).

    The main problem was access to kit and the amount of hardware time they had. It got a lot worse when a lot of the resources went online, largely cutting off the prison population, so i'm not sure how that will be dealt with

    Although initially intimidating, I found most of the students pretty keen and receptive, and quite enjoyed it.

    It was quite an eye opener on prisons and my attitude changed to the fact incarceration main purpose should be rehabilitation, rather than the general public view that it should be punishment, so I am generally supportive of any schemes like this

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: "you need to rob banks to be in here"

      It depends on how you usually dress to do it. Business attire throws you into a committee hearing, heading to a slight rap on the knuckles and a "don't do it again, please" warning...

  14. Blockchain commentard Silver badge
    Joke

    Can they be taught English first if they're up in the North East?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FOR (long Stretch = 15 TO _LIFE)

    {

    DO porridge();

    ON Tunnel.IsComplete() ==True;

    break;

    }

    1. TimMaher
      Coat

      As there is a semi-colon after True they will break after their first porridge().

      The compiler should have flagged up an effective no-op for the ON statement.

      I’ll get my coat. I’ts the long brown lab coat made by “Nerd & Co.”

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Anyone convicted of sexual or online fraud offences will not be allowed on the course."

    Having worked in prisons for a few years myself, I fail to see how a blanket ban on anyone convicted of a sexual offence from the course is helpful to their rehabilitation? It should be based on a risk assessment of the individual offender as some sexual offences have nothing to do with the internet.

    Whether the public likes it or not a lot of people convicted of a sexual offence will be released from prison and unless we want them to be on benefits for the rest of their lives they will need to look for work.

    I would have thought a web developer job is probably one that is low risk to members of the public. Certainly no more risky than a lot of other jobs they are encouraged to apply for when on license such as warehouse staff and van drivers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Rule 45

      They won't be able to associate with the normal inmates

  17. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    <daily mail web desginer reader>

    Bloody prisoners taking our jobs

    </daily mail web desginer reader>

    1. OssianScotland

      <daily mail web desginer reader>

      Shirley an endangered species, if not completely extinct?

      1. Rudolph Hucker the Third

        Re: <daily mail web desginer reader>

        Happily, they are not endangered any more.

        They've been cross-breeding them with Grauniad proof-readers.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Bloody prisoners taking our jobs

      They can come and take mine if they like.

      All they have to do is vetting to get their SC clearance (or preferably DV) and provide a packet of biscuits once a week and we'll make them most welcome.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Arbeit macht kostenloser web developers

    We can pay people in poor countries to do web development. What we need are politicians who can implement Brexit in the alloted time. Why don't we train our prisoners to do something easy like that?

  19. wayne 8

    learn to code

    "Learn to code" hate speech when uttered to laid off web journos.

    Life advice for crims.

    Or is learning Javascript a form of punishment?

  20. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    If they took a few too many liberties with the Cache....

    Then they would find out what True Commit meant.

  21. Ken Shabby

    U+001B

    Will they remove the Esc key?

    1. Ken Shabby
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: U+001B

      OK, I'll put it back.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Depending on what they were inside for, I'm not sure I'd be very keen on wanting to use a shopping or banking system developed by these people, lest my account details find themselves with an additional not-in-the-spec "backup", if you know what I mean!

  23. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Coat

    If there's no internet access in prison

    How will they do javascript without stackexchange.com?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If there's no internet access in prison

      How will they do javascript without stackexchange.com?

      Probably better then they would WITH it?

  24. Paul Herber

    Prisoner in Cell Block HTML

    Mine's the coat with the pointy arrows on it.

  25. TomGould

    I started to learn coding in jail in the UK at Rye Hill in 2004, I got out in 2007, I'm now no longer offending, I own a flat in London, I have a well paid job as a software developer and personally all jokes aside I think this is a good idea if it is well executed, good luck to them, all it takes is years of hard work .

    while (InJail === true) {

    learnSkills();

    }

  26. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    So the route out of IT drudgery and into a proper programming job is a spell in chokey? Is there a cow-creamer to hand?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      A proper programming job IS IT drudgery.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Upvote purely for cow-creamer reference

      Well done that man

    3. Paul 195

      Aunt Dahlia? Is that you?

  27. FlamingDeath Bronze badge
    Holmes

    Has the PTB been listening, and thought

    Oh that might be a problem

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/03/15/qa_bruce_schneier/

    "As employees, technologists wield enormous power. They can force the companies they work for to abandon lucrative US military contracts, or efforts to assist with censorship in China. If employees start to routinely demand the companies they work for behave more morally, the change would be both swift and dramatic." - Bruce Schneier

  28. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Happy

    Help desk ?

    Getting these guys to man the help desk would be awesome.

    Should be able to sign them up cheap. More importantly they would have skills we just don't in the gentle art of (L)user re-education.I can only ever see an end user making a stupid mistake once, at best. Particularly if they knew the person they had to see was a 6' 3"ex-con, with a couple of tear drops tatted under his eye, or a version of "Happy" from SoA.==> Smiley face for multiple reasons

  29. Telford dave

    Just the 21st century version of the traditional sewing of mailbags surely?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    C Code

    Don't we already have enough code written by criminals? Sure, they usually go by names like Microsoft, Oracle, Facebook, Google or Apple...

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