Prison course grads go straight

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One group of convicts at San Quentin Prison are so successful once they're released that they don't go back to prison. They punch computer programs instead.

The prison has been offering convicts a computer course for eight years, and Anthony Newland, a San Quentin prison official, says not one of the inmates who have finished it has returned to the state Department of Corrections. Hundreds of convicts have participated in the program at San Quentin, and the 30-student course has a year-long waiting list. Prisoners at other institutions have asked to transfer to San Quentin just to apply. In fact, Mr. Newland says, a second shift is being added and the program will soon be expanded.

''Computers are the wave of everybody's future,'' Newland says. ''If we can get inmates plugged into that new mode, then there's less chance they go back to crime.''

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