SACRAMENTO — Watching Chris Schumacher work a room of business and labor leaders, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear he’s a successful Bay Area software engineer for a popular website.
What you may not realize is that he honed those skills over the course of seven of the 17 years he spent in prison, serving time for murder.
“Very early on, I decided to take accountability for my crime. For me, that meant being clean and sober and not letting any of my time in there be wasted,” Schumacher said.
For Schumacher, that meant taking advantage of the prison educational and job training programs through California Prison Industry Authority. Those programs were celebrated Friday in Sacramento.
The game changer for Schumacher was the Last Mile software coding program.
“One of my biggest fears, when I was inside, was who on the outside was going to be willing to give me another chance,” he told FOX40.
A vice present with the website Fandom was willing.
“It’s not only rewarding but it’s worth getting over those fears,” Fandom VP Jon-Paul Ales-Barnicoat said.
After seeing Schumacher at work in prison, Ales-Barnicoat offered the 45-year-old an internship shortly after his release last fall. Within months, Schumacher was brought on staff as a full-time employee.
“I don’t think I would be working as a software engineer in San Francisco right now without this program, which is incredible,” Schumacher said.
Schumacher and Ales-Barnicoat shared their success story with a room full of prospective employers as part of the annual Employer Forum hosted by several corrections and labor organizations.
The forum is essentially a sales pitch to the business leaders in the room — making the moral, practical, and tax incentives case for hiring ex-offenders. Ales-Barnicoat sees it as a potential game changer for business and for society.
“We need talent. Not only is this a good source of that talent,” Ales-Barnicoat said. “But there’s an opportunity for us to think differently about people who have been incarcerated.”