More than 95% of those in jail or prison will be released, and the California Community Colleges has a long history of serving incarcerated and formerly incarcerated. Two recent developments – Senate Bill 1391 in 2014 and Proposition 57 in 2016 – are contributing to a growth in enrollment.
SB 1391 introduced an opportunity for community colleges and state prisons to coordinate face-to-face instruction in programs leading toward degrees or certificates that result in enhanced workforce skills. In addition, Proposition 57 provides incentives for inmates “to take responsibility for their own rehabilitation with credit-earning opportunities for sustained good behavior, as well as in-prison program and activities participation.”
Additional information and resources are available at Rising Scholars Network webpage.
As of fall 2017, 22 community colleges were providing instruction and student support services to more than 7,000 students in the state’s 35 prisons.
A significant number of studies show that investing in educating the incarcerated yields benefits that go beyond the needs and motives of the individual and address those of the society as well. With the cost of housing a prisoner in California estimated at as high as $75,000 per year – more than the cost of attending Harvard University – it makes a good deal of sense to implement programs that reduce these costs, with the added bonus of further educating this population and making our communities safer.
Budget Assembly Trailer Bill 1809 provided $5 million in one-time funding to establish or support programs serving formerly incarcerated students enrolled in community college or providing face-to-face instruction to community college students in prison or jail. In 2019, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office announced the creation of a Currently and formerly Incarcerated Students Reentry Program grants program. Grants will be focused on students’ reentry into their communities through the Guided Pathways framework.