Better Education Options Urged for California Prisoners

March 5, 2015

A new report is pushing for access to more effective college opportunities for prisoners and formerly incarcerated people in California. In the late 1970s, all of California’s state prisons had in-person college programs, and 15 community colleges offered support services for people with criminal histories, according to a report titled "Degrees of Freedom." Today, just one prison offers in-person education programming. Others have low-quality distance education, the report found.

The report links improved postsecondary correctional education with the state’s need for educated workers. California’s demand for college-educated workers is projected to outpace the number of residents with a college degree in the next decade. One of the report’s recommendations is for improved partnerships between California’s 112 community colleges and 35 state prisons. Most of the state’s prisons are located within a 20-mile radius of a community college, but community colleges and correctional facilities have been operating in silos, the report says. Other recommendations include recruiting qualified teachers and offering both academic and nonacademic support for incarcerated students.

The report was written by the Stanford Criminal Justice Center at Stanford Law School and the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. The project is paid for by the Ford Foundation.

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