For the millions of Californians with prior justice involvement, education is critical for developing skills as well as building a support network for a better life. Unfortunately, students with records face a myriad of barriers to education and employment. They are often fed the myth that that their criminal records disqualify them from access to higher education, as well as financial aid and other resources. Instead of receiving the support they so badly need, they are at the mercy of a system that fails to reflect their lived experiences and erects roadblocks to their success. With 50,000 people leaving California prisons each year and 1 in 3 people living with a criminal record, the need for support has never been so critical.

To help combat the issue, the Michelson 20MM Foundation is awarding Root and Rebound a Spark Grant for their Incarceration to Education Initiative. Root & Rebound is a legal advocacy center focused on ending the harm caused by mass incarceration and the war on drugs. The center has focused much of its work on increasing access to higher education for people with criminal records,  With their Incarceration to Education Initiative, Root & Rebound will seek to build a coalition to support formerly incarcerated people as they pursue higher education; bringing together strong stakeholders across the state to work together on this issue.  The initiative will have a three-fold impact in California, focusing on:

  1. Increasing the number of justice-involved people who can access and complete postsecondary education in California;
  2. Increasing state investment in programs and services for formerly incarcerated/justice impacted students on these campuses; and 
  3. Increasing funding for training for career counselors, advisors, and admissions officers on campuses around strategies for supporting people with justice-involvement.  

The direct impact of this work will be to increase diversity on college and graduate campuses, increase opportunities for people with records, and, significantly, increase educational attainment and meaningful career prospects for students who have been justice impacted.  Long term, Root & Rebound’s Education to Incarceration Initiative will serve as a national model for how to mobilize stakeholders from across the criminal justice reform, educational, and employment sectors around the issue of discrimination of system-impacted people in higher education.

The Michelson 20MM Foundation and its initiatives are made possible by the generous support of Gary K. Michelson, M.D. and his wife, Alya Michelson. We will be conducting Phase 3 of the Michelson Spark Grant program in Q1 of 2020. To learn more please visit our webpage or sign up for notifications via the form below.