052: The Last Mile: Breaking The Cycle Of Incarceration with Aly Tamboura

June 1, 2018

FYS 52 | The Last Mile

Almost 60% percent of all inmates that are released with no training end up back in jail. If it wasn’t for The Last Mile, an entrepreneurial training program preparing incarcerated individuals for successful re-entry into society, Aly Tamboura would have been part of that statistic. Aly was sentenced to seventeen years in prison, the majority of that stint being in San Quentin located north of San Francisco, one of the most notorious hardcore prisons. In a fascinating conversation, Aly talks about what it’s like inside the joint, his pursuits to change his life by taking advantage of every conceivable opportunity to increase his knowledge base, and his chance encounter with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook which he now works for under his organization called Chan Zuckerberg.

On this episode, we talked to Aly Tamboura. This is a fellow that was sentenced to seventeen years in prison. Majority of that stint was in San Quentin up in San Francisco. One of the most notorious hardcore prisons that is out there for a variety of different reasons. It got its reputation back in the ‘70 and ‘80s, but a lot of very violent criminals that are in that institution. A few years ago, and from the direction of the Warden of that prison, they started these various programs that would bring in and help educate these different inmates that eventually were going to be released. I got the great opportunity to interview Aly. He’s a guy that went through a program called The Last Mile, the Entrepreneurial program. Ultimately, he had a chance encounter with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and now he works for his organization called Chan Zuckerberg. We had a fascinating conversation about what it’s like inside the joint and his pursuits in terms of increasing his knowledge base that one day when he got released, he’d be able to go out into the world and be productive. I’ve never talked to anybody in prison, and so this was a first for me. Overcoming adversity and finding his way certainly fits the bill in this case. As always, continue to rate and review. It helps with the rise in the popularity.

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The Last Mile: Breaking The Cycle Of Incarceration with Aly Tamboura

This episode is right out of Shawshank Redemption, not quite, but we’re going to get into some pretty heavy stuff. I’ve got Aly Tamboura all the way in San Francisco. Aly, how are you doing?

I’m great. Thanks for having me.

Your story is really unique. One of the podcasts that I follow is a podcast that Lance Armstrong does called The Forward. He had been up in San Quentin and I’d never heard about any of this stuff. The venture capitalist up in San Francisco who founded this organization called The Last Mile was talking about how he had gone in to talk to a bunch of the inmates in San Quentin and he was blown away by how many bright, interesting, full of question people that he saw. He gave me this insane statistic that something like 60% of all inmates that are released with no training end up back in jail and something like 100% of the inmates that have gone through the First Mile program have not returned there. They’re successful in society. They’re anchored with a purpose. That sounds like exactly what that has happened to you.

That’s correct. I went through The Last Mile program. I’ve been home for a little under two years now. The Last Mile was really transformative to my life. It was just a brief time ago but it’s one of those milestones when I look back and think about where I am today. I’m still in awe on how much of an impact that a single in-prison program has had on my life.

I was like, “What is this Last Mile program?” I reached out and I looked it up online and I found it. Surprisingly, Chris, the CEO who founded this program reached back to me. We had a great conversation. I was like, “I would love to come up to San Quentin and interview a bunch of guys who are going through this program and talk to other guys who have successfully graduated and been released from prison.” I find your story and other stories of the other inmates that I’m going to be talking to, it’s so fascinating. My intent is to go up there at some time in the future, according to Chris, and go through this. Before we get into everything about The Last Mile program, you spent the last twelve years in San Quentin. I know the reputation of San Quentin. It is one intense place with the worst criminals that are out there. How did you end up in that situation?

Prior to my incarceration, I owned and operated a small geotechnical company here in the Bay Area. The last thing I ever think of in my life was that I would end up being incarcerated. While my professional life was skyrocketing, my personal life was heading for disaster. In 2004, I was charged with threatening to shoot my now ex-wife. Even when I was charged, I had no idea of how punitive the criminal justice system is. I take responsibility for my role in getting myself tied up in the criminal justice system. I’m still a firm believer that it does not do justice, not only to people who are accused of crimes but also to victims of crimes and to society. Our criminal justice system has gotten way out of hand. 5% of the world’s population is in the United States, but we have 25% of the world’s prison population.

[Tweet “Our criminal justice system has gotten way out of hand.”]

Was my description of San Quentin accurate? The reason why I asked you this is because as you were retelling that story of your personal situation, it just seems pretty severe that you’d go from some kind of assault to one of the worst prisons and most intensive prisons for gang members and murderers and all this kind of stuff in San Quentin. Maybe there was some penalty, but that seems pretty severe to me.

The way that prison system works, the California prison system in particular, is when you first go in, you get assessed. They send you to what they call a reception center and they do things like they give you a reading test, a math test. They run you through a battery of medical exams and then they choose where to send you. I originally wasn’t sent to San Quentin. I was sent to a prison that was much worse than San Quentin. Some of these high violent prisons aren’t on the national or the international radar like San Quentin is because they’re fairly new and they’re located out in California in the Central Valley. I was originally sent to Corcoran, which is a level four murder max prison. I witnessed people every type of violence imaginable. I don’t want to put your audience through the violence that I witnessed, but everything from murders, sexual assaults, stabbings, all of those things happened in prison.

What is that like when you’re witnessing these stabbings and sexual assault, fights and all this other intense stuff? It would seem to me that you would be literally sleeping every night with one eye open. I’m sure you’re in your own cell, but what’s going through your mind?

One of the side effects of incarceration and particularly being in a hyper violent atmosphere is that you get this hypervigilance that you’re always looking, you’re always waiting for something to happen and it’s a wearing thing. It starts taking its toll on your mental health. It’s taking its toll on you physically. It’s hard to explain. The only other people that I’ve talked to that can speak to the sensation is people who have been in combat, like our veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. They can speak about the same type of wearing hypervigilance that you have to learn.

In your prison cell in this first location that you were at, are you sharing a cell with one or more inmates? How does that work?

Usually, you share a cell with another person and that’s a whole other dynamic, sharing a small concrete and steel and closure with another human being and those types of interactions.

My youngest daughter goes to the University of Arizona. All the freshmen have to start off in dorms. That is literally like throwing dice and who you’re going to pick up, same interest, are they nice, do they steal things. I’ve heard it all and I could only imagine that ten times of somebody that’s been incarcerated that in you’re in a small space. That’d be very intense.

The idea of a college dorm, there’s a certain amount of correlation there. The big difference is you don’t know who you are in the cell with. You can be in a cell with someone who, like myself, was in an emotionally charged situation and made a bad choice in that situation. Or you can be in a cell with someone who is hell bent on criminality, someone who just murdered somebody and who has life without the possibility of parole and has lost all hope. It can be very dangerous in the cell, particularly the person that you’re in the cell with.

When you first entered this first prison, were there any kinds of programs that were set up? We are going to get into is about The Last Mile and in really creating a structure that you can go in and learn a skill or skills that will benefit you when you get released. What there anything like that going on in that particular prison?

Unfortunately, most of the prisons in California that were built and the late ‘70s through the ‘80s and early ‘90s are in California, Central Valley. They’re what we call the salad belt. Lots of agriculture, but they’re distant from any urban center. What’s unique about San Quentin is it’s located in the San Francisco Bay Area and so it’s close for people and volunteers to get into the prison. Out there, there’s literally nothing. They do have adult basic education. If you don’t have a GED or a high school diploma and those classes were limited, there might be one or two programs or classrooms and a yard of 1,200 men. There’s long waiting lists and stuff like that. They can facilitate that for everybody. The Department of Corrections does its best and even those classes, from my vantage point, aren’t very productive. From there, every once in a while, you’ll have AA or NA, but as far as job training and programs that you find at San Quentin, they’re nonexistent in most of the prisons out in the Central Valley.

FYS 52 | The Last Mile

The Last Mile: It’s the community engagement and the programs that have changed the complete environment of the prisoner.

I read this quote from your aunt that she told you when you were sentenced that you would have the opportunity to improve yourself, like get quiet, understand what’s going on, and make the most of your situation. You certainly did. When was that point then? You go in and you get assessed in your reading skills and your aptitude and physicals and all this stuff, and so they place you in one of the California’s jail system and prison systems. You’re there, but now they switch you to San Quintin. Why did they do that?

They didn’t do that on their own volition. What had happened was, using my onset bias, I started ordering books and reading like a lot of the masters, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and the books that I probably should’ve read in school but skipped to the clip notes kind of thing. I got obsessed with reading and I thought, “This is great.” I started taking correspondence courses. The correspondence courses, they suit a purpose but there’s nothing like in classroom education where you’re in there with other students and heard different perspectives and different dialogue. I heard about this program called The Prison University project that was running in San Quentin. What was really unique about it is that all of the instructors were volunteers from UC Berkeley, UC SF, Stanford, all of the Bay Area colleges were sending professors in to teach inmates in classroom studies.

I wrote them a letter and they sent me a letter back that I was approved once my points got down. At that point, I was the level three inmate. There are five levels in California. There’s death row, then outside of death row, the highest is level four, level three, level two, level one. If you can manage to stay out of trouble, managed not to be a victim of violence, your points drop annually. I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about the Department of Corrections, but I do have some nice things and I had a very progressive counselor. From the day I got there, he looked at and said, “You don’t belong here.” When I told them about this program at San Quentin, he says, “I’m going to do everything I can to get you there. Just stay out of trouble.” As they say in prison, “Stay out of the way.” If your points get low enough, I will send you.” Usually, it takes twelve months cycles. You go in front of a hearing and they tell you either you’re doing a good job during your incarceration or doing a terrible job or they’ll tell you need to get a GED. If you’re doing what they want you to do, they lower your points every year. This counselor was so progressive, he took me into what they call a biannual, so he took me to six-month increments. I was still just a hair over points but he overrode me and got me transferred to San Quentin.

From the prison that you were at, and I get the motivation because you’ve got these brilliant professors from Stanford and other places coming into the prison and you talked about being in class total, it makes total sense to me. Were you still at the same time going to more intense situation in terms of the inmates that are sentenced to San Quentin?

San Quentin has this notorious name. If you’re in Johannesburg, South Africa and you say San Quentin, people are going to know what it is. Nobody knows Corcoran State Prison. It’s probably the first time you’ve heard it or Salinas Valley State Prison or Old Folsom State Prison. Some of these prisons have a violence that’s just off the charts. What’s happened at San Quentin? San Quentin was notoriously horrible through the ‘60s, ‘70s and early ‘80s. What happened is there’s a segment of inmates, I hate referring to people as inmates, but there was a segment of people sentenced to prison who had life with the possibility of parole. Them, combined with a really progressive warden, Jeanne Woodford, started bringing these programs into San Quentin and started allowing a lot of community involvement. San Quentin has over 3,000 volunteers. That’s pretty amazing when you consider it houses about 4,000 people. They started changing the color that the culture of the prison. It’s not to say that violence doesn’t happen in San Quentin, it’s still prison. They’re having problems now. They’ve had a couple of stabbings in a part of the prison called H Unit.

Lots of problems, but the violence level is not on the scale that it is at these other prisons. For the first time when I got to San Quentin, I could never tell my family, “I’m coming home.” At San Quentin, you can maneuver so you can avoid almost all of the violence. It’s not 100% guaranteed but it’s almost guaranteed where with some of the other higher-level prisons, it’s not. Programs like the Prison University Project and The Last Mile and there’s a multitude of self-help programs, in-site prison project. There’s a group in there called GRIP, Guiding Rage Into Power, a powerful program. Out of that program, a guy, Jacques calls it peacemakers that he makes. I’ve used some of those tools since I’ve been out, what I learned in that class. It’s the community engagement and the programs that have changed the complete environment of the prisoner. It’s more like a learning environment than it is a prison.

It sounds like the warden ran the prison more like a college atmosphere. Obviously, you’re still locked up and there’s a lot of violent people in there, but there’s all these opportunities to improve and better yourself. Going back to that original correlation that I was making, the Shawshank Redemption, about how the one main character had created all this curriculum to go in and read books and build a library and teach all these different guys how to read and then, eventually try to get their GED. You talked about knives. There will still be stabbings. In terms of stabbing, how does somebody get access to whatever kind of weapon that’s going to inflict pain on somebody else?

The amount of intuitiveness and just sheer engineering that I witnessed while I was incarcerated, guys are taking apart Sony Walkmans and making tattoo guns. I’m making lighters out of paperclips. There’s some stuff that I wish I had like this demonstration of some of the things that I’ve seen. People who are incarcerated, if you give someone enough time and just a few resources, they could build just about anything. When you think about knives, everything and anything can be made into a knife. One of the most notorious things I’ve seen is a shampoo bottle. If you take a shampoo bottle and heat it up very slowly over a flame and usually you can use toys.

[Tweet “As they say in prison, “Stay out of the way.””]

They make these things called burners out of toilet paper. You heat it up very slowly and you twist it, almost like a licorice stick and you twisted it slow and pull. Pretty soon, you have this piece of plastic that’s about the size of your pinky and you set it on the concrete floor of the cell and you let it harden. Once it’s hardened, people would use the concrete to sharpen one end. Now you have a knife that’s undetectable by metal detectors and dangerous. It’s a lethal weapon. That’s just to name a few. They’ve made them out of pieces of the barbed wire fence. One of the things I learned is that you can cut metal with dental floss. Dental floss is common. These guys were able to cut chunks of metal out of the solid metal bunks.

What you’re talking about is creativity. When you are locked down and you have time to think about things that most times you wouldn’t be thinking about, it’s amazing what the human spirit can come up with. How long was your sentence?

I originally was sentenced to almost seventeen years. I went back on appeal. I got a little bit of time off. Ultimately, my sentence was fourteen years and eight months. Out of that, I did a little over twelve years.

To me, your sentence based on what you did was a little severe. I have no idea what the tiers are but it seems like justice did not prove out in this case. It turns out to be a great story here and that’s where we’re going with this whole podcast. Now you get into San Quentin, you’re understanding and maneuvering through all these different great programs that, as you said, there’s these amazing professors, instructors coming in from around the Bay Area up there. You had some chance meetings with Mark Zuckerberg, the Co-Founder of Facebook.

That was really towards the end of my incarceration. There was a lot of work and a lot of things that I had to do to get through there. From what I understand, the way Mark came into the prison was he read Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy. He was shocked that he couldn’t believe some of the things that he was reading in the book. One of the books on the reading list that Mark and some of the people at Facebook were reading was Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. I’m not sure which one of those books sparked Mark’s interest into coming into San Quentin, but he made a surprise visit and it was while I was still learning to code. I was at the end of the third cohort of the coding curriculum there in San Quentin.

Which is called code 7370?

I had built a Capstone Project and I was fortunate enough to give Mark a demonstration of the Capstone project that I built, which was a, a data visualization I built for the University of Pittsburgh.

How do you get that gig?

A real progressive professor heard about The Last Mile, said, “I’ve got this data on childhood diseases. It’d be cool if you guys could build a data visualization.” She went through the proper channels. The data got vetted to make sure it was safe for the prison environment, came in to the prison. They gave me this data set and said, “Build something, make this so people can look at this data.” I built a data visualization where people could scroll through literally from the 1920s till current, the impact of childhood diseases across the United States.

That was through the program code 7370. That’s all about learning how to become an engineer, how to code.

It’s not just learning how to code. With Chris and Bev and all of the wonderful people that run The Last Mile, what they’re able to do is they mimic what it’s like to work in a real-world environment. We use these things like get hub and agile development strategies and the whole idea of collaboration and code review and learning to download different libraries. You can add these libraries into your project and understanding what open source means. All of these things they bring together in the curriculum to build an environment that is a real software engineering environment.

How many hours during the day are you allotted to work towards this? Is this like, “I’m going off to work,” literally the doors open up at the prison cell, you go get your breakfast and then you’re off for the day until you return at the end and then you go to bed.

The coding part of the program was Monday through Thursday and you’re there between seven and eight hours a day. Usually breakfast is at about 5:30 AM. You go grab your breakfast. They give you a packed lunch and you moved through the industries part of the prison and you sit down at a desk and you’re off into the cyber world.

I’m trying to imagine myself if I was in that situation, you’re occupying your mind. There’s another guy that I had on the pod months ago, Captain Charles Plumb. He was a guy that was shot down in a plane in Vietnam during that conflict and he was in a prison cell for six years. It was like six feet long by three feet wide. You can imagine that, but what you probably can’t imagine is he had no ability to occupy his mind. No books, no paper, no pencils, no radio, nothing, no TV. You’re at least in a situation trying to better yourself versus what he had to go through. It’s much more beneficial not just to yourself but to society when you guys were released, in your case, when you were released. Let’s talk about The Last Mile. What is The Last Mile? I had researched it and found through Lance Armstrong’s podcast.

FYS 52 | The Last Mile

The Last Mile: The Last Mile is a program that is there to teach inmates to be self-sufficient upon their release from incarceration.

The Last Mile, it’s multifaceted. If you take it as a whole, it’s a program that is there to teach inmates to be self-sufficient upon their release from incarceration. I started in The Last Mile, they had an entrepreneurship training program, not in the coding program. The entrepreneurship program basically was to come up with a business idea. The idea had to have a social component as well as a technological component. Write a comprehensive business plan around the idea, and then we had a demo day where we got to pitch our business idea to venture capitalists in Silicon Valley business leaders. I went through that, pitched my idea, got accoladed, and it feels like flying high on the experience. It was at that point that Chris and his wife Beverly said, “These guys are talented. We should see if we can bring a coding curriculum in here.”

In the next few months, they started this coding curriculum. I applied and it wasn’t one of those things where you just get accepted. There’s a lot of things that you need to be able to do, um, have some basic problem-solving skills, be able to know your behavior inside the institution. If you’re a person that’s in there getting in trouble, it’s not to say you can’t be in The Last Mile, but you have to have at least six or seven months of not being any in any kind of trouble before they’ll let you in. There have been incidents where people have to reapply because of some disciplinary problems inside. Once I got into the coding program, I thought, “I’m pretty good at math.” All of that was out the window. Sitting down, it’s like learning a whole new language and they did a good job of walking us through what it’s like to be a software engineer starting with html and CSS and then moving into a JavaScript and then from JavaScript to higher order functions to in-depth engineering.

Let’s wind this back to your meeting with the Zuckerberg. I read that after you got done with your presentation, you posed the question, “Do you ever hire guys who have been incarcerated?”

What I asked him specifically, I said, “Would you hire someone who was formerly incarcerated at Facebook?”

What was his response?

His response was, “Apply.” He didn’t say yes. He didn’t say no. He just said, “Apply.”

You talked about the original sentence was seventeen years and then it got down to fourteen and then because of good behavior and other things that you were doing, it ended up being about twelve years, which is still just a major chunk. It’s amazing through this Last Mile program and code 7370 you learned all these different skills. You’re well on your way, but going back to that initial thing that got you put in jail, just the things that tick inside you, the emotional part, were you able to also come to grips and solve that as well with the programs to help bring you back to deal with those emotions, those feelings that led you to your situation?

There’s this narrative in the criminal justice space that people are bad and then they do these rehabilitative programs and then they’re good and then they get out and they can be good. That’s narrow-minded thinking. A vast majority of the people who are incarcerated are very good people. Due to substance abuse or impulse control, they end up incarcerated. That’s not to say that there’s not people out there that are sold into this criminal mindset. Those types of people are in prison too but they do not represent the majority of people in prison. I did do a lot of work on myself. It’s not just about the events that landed me in prison, but it’s thinking about, “Am I a good citizen? Am I a good neighbor? If I ever am in a highly emotional charged situation, what do I do?” Learning those tools and then putting it into action in real life. I drive here in the Bay Area, I witnessed people get out of their car and fighting in traffic. To me, I can’t imagine ever getting to the point in my life where I felt like any type of violence or threat of violence is the answer to handling any type of situation. I was able to learn most, if not all of that, while I was incarcerated.

The biggest lesson you’ve learned over those years since you went through from day one, you’re sentenced and you hear that and it says your heart sinks and everything else to where you sit today. What do you think the biggest takeaway that you have come away with since you’ve been released?

Every person on this planet is unique. Specifically, when we have our eyes turned to the criminal justice system, there’s this idea that everybody in prison is a murderer or rapist and they’re beyond reform and we need to lock them up and throw away the key. I say to people who think like that, “Nobody on this planet is a worse mistake.” Imagine the worst thing that you’ve done in your life. If someone put that on you and when you went to go get a job or you went to get housing or you went to school, someone just pulled this up, they wrote it on a t-shirt and said, “No, Mark, that’s who you are. You’re that worst thing you ever did.” You’re not. Nobody is.

[Tweet “Nobody on this planet is a worse mistake.”]

I believe in second chances. I believe as a society, we need to start thinking about how we look at our criminal justice system. I think it’s abhorrent. You mentioned that approximately 70% of the people who go through the criminal justice system and recidivate and end up back in there. As a taxpayer and as a father, I don’t think our taxpayer money should be going to reincarcerate people. As a society we need to look very deeply at our criminal justice system and not stand for that 70% recidivism rate. People coming out of the criminal justice system need to have clear paths to employment, clear paths to housing, and clear paths to become citizens, to be contributing citizens. I’ve never met somebody that said, “Someone coming out of prison, we should make it so they have no opportunity,” and they go and commit more crimes. It makes no sense to me. That’s my focus. That’s my mission in life now. When it comes around building tools for criminal justice reform and things like that, that’s where I’m using my technical expertise.

It’s not where you start, it’s where you end. There was a great movie, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it to anybody. It’s called The Count of Monte Cristo. Have you seen it?

I have not seen it. I think I read most of the book. I didn’t get through the whole book. It’s a big book.

It’s about this guy. This takes its place back in maybe the 18th century or something in this fishing village. These two guys are best buddies and one of the guys is the hero and the star and the other guy is this jealous sort and he sets him up. The more successful one, he’s got the girl, he’s got the position, being a captain on a ship, ends up being falsely accused and then sent off to this prison in the middle of this ocean. It’s like a rock, like Alcatraz. He’s in solitary confinement and was sentenced for life. For the first seven years or something, he’s in there, he’s miserable, he’s rotting away. One day, out of the depths of the stone floor emerges this old guy who’d been digging for the last fifteen to twenty years trying to jailbreak. He picked the wrong direction, and so he merges out from the bottom of this floor. This guy’s like this wise old man. In exchange for both these guys helping to dig in and find their way out, he decides to teach him the ways of the world, accounting, finance, languages, self-defense, all this stuff. When he ultimately gets out, that’s a whole another story, but he’s a worldly guy and he knows everything, very smart. He plots this revenge, which isn’t what you’re doing, but it’s an interesting movie.

I look at my own situation and I went through a tough ten-year period. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, but at the same time, I’ve come away from this so much more enriched in terms of the blessings that I’m doing now like this podcast. In your situation, I don’t know exactly if you would say it was a blessing or not, but you certainly seem to be on a great path right now. According to that path, you are now working for Mark Zuckerberg in his other company called Chan Zuckerberg. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

I work for a company called Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. We have three unique silos, education, science, and justice and opportunity. I work in justice and opportunity, specifically in criminal justice reform. The philanthropy is a couple of years old. It was started Mark and his wife Priscilla. They’re giving away 99% of their wealth. I’d like you and the audience to go read the letter that they wrote to their daughter Max and it will give you a perspective on the company and our mission.

Let’s go back to that moment where you’re showing Mark Zuckerberg this demo and then you ask him the question. Did you actually apply through Facebook or did you apply through this other organization you’re with?

I didn’t apply. I don’t believe that Mark even knew that I worked for his company until I saw him at my first all-hands meeting. When I left San Quentin, I went to work as a developer in San Francisco, did some continued education, and learned a lot more about the backend of a computer science. There’s these two distinct job classifications. One is frontend engineer, the one is backend engineer. I learned a lot of the backend engineering, went to a computer boot camp in San Francisco, and then after that, I took a college course and then did some work around beta structures and algorithms. I was committed to continuing this path that The Last Mile set me on. Once I graduated and finished all of these programs, I started applying for full stack developer roles. What happens in this computer science and computer engineering roles, there’s recruiters out there that finds you on platforms like LinkedIn or through word of mouth. I got an email in my inbox from a recruiter and he said he was with CZI. I had no idea what CZI was.

FYS 52 | The Last Mile

The Last Mile: As a society, we need to start thinking about how we look at our criminal justice system.

I went to go on the internet and read the letter that Mark and Priscilla wrote to their child Max. I read the letter and I was like, “Wow.” They told me that they were really trying to make meaningful change in this world. I thought, “How awesome would it be if I could work in criminal justice reform?” I applied and I went through a rigorous interview process like everybody else. I had to talk about my history and put that on the table and inevitably I got hired. I’m thankful for the opportunity, but this by no means was somebody saying, “I’m going to give you a break because I met you while you were incarcerated.” This was something that was done on the merits of what I’ve learned and all of the hard work that I’ve put in and ultimately was decided or decided upon by the skills I have to offer.

I don’t think it was a favorite either. It’s a classic where preparation meets opportunity. You’ve been setting yourself up for years and years, educating yourself, learning how to code, going and getting further education, going through The Last Mile program. When you stepped up, I can’t think of a better candidate than you to be involved in this program based on the way your history, your background, and what you consider to be fair. I don’t know anything about what’s injustice and not within the prison system. You’ve got all that unique insight, which puts you a step ahead. I don’t think everybody needs to go to prison to get that insight, but that was your unique qualifier that I’m sure was very appealing. In addition, you’re a smart and great guy. That preparation of all those years and the opportunity coming up and whoever the hiring manager was recognized that and then bring you on board.

The name of this podcast is Finding Your Summit. It’s all about overcoming adversity, in your case, some series of diversity and then finding your way. It seems like you certainly are on your way and doing great things and contributing in a positive way.

Thank you for having me, Mark. I just want to say that I’m not an anomaly. There are hundreds if not thousands of elite Tambouras in our local and state lockups. The only thing between me and them is that, I won the lottery in opportunity. When Chris and Beverly brought The Last Mile into San Quentin and a lot of the other folks that are running great programs in San Quentin, it has had a significant impact on my life. These types of things need to be replicated in other prisons and lockups. One of the things that should resonate with your audience is these programs are the programs that are making our community safer.

Aly, thank you so much for coming on the show. I’m very grateful and your story is amazing. I wish you all the luck in the world going forward.

Thank you so much for having me.


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