NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Shelbyville resident Alex Marston is a family man, hard-working and successful in the software industry. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago he was behind bars serving five and a half years for a felony.

“Mistakes were made. And, you know, I kind of I paid the price for it,” Marston said.

As he approached his release, Marston faced the obstacles so many face reentering society.

“[It’s] nearly impossible to get a job with a record,” Marston explains, “Housing is almost impossible to get, and you’re kind of thrown out there expected to survive.”

Sean Hosman knows. He was jailed, too.

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“The national recidivism rates are anywhere between 40 and 70%,” explained Hosman.

Determined to reverse the tide, Hosman created the organization Persevere, which started in 2019 in Tennessee.

“I wanted to be able to help those like me, in that system,” Hosman said, “and I wanted a program that would actually deliver on its promises. Our recidivism rate thus far is 1.8%. So, it’s working.”

The team focuses on teaching hard competency skills that companies are desperate for with 1.5 million software jobs going unfilled in this country.

“If they’re just okay, as a laborer or as an asset, then [a company] can pass them up because they don’t want to deal with second chances. When they’re in desperate need of software developers and there’s not enough of them elsewhere,” Hosman continued, “that changes their thought process to ‘Maybe I’ll give this person a shot.'”

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That’s why inmates are trained for tech.

“I was the firsthand, up, I was like, sign me up!” Marston recalled.

And Tennessee is reaping the reward.

“We won a $15.5M grant from the [Federal Government] just for Tennessee. And we’re going to now grow from teaching about 400 people a year to teaching about 1,700 people placing them in jobs in the state of Tennessee,” said Hosman.

Marston is proof people are more than their past mistakes.

“They reached in and instilled the meaning of perseverance,” he said with a smile.

To date, Persevere has certified nearly 700 people as full-stack software developers placing them in gainful employment.