By Kenia Miranda Verdugo

The U.S. Department of Education’s newly released report, Beyond the Box, provides a guide for educational institutions to mitigate barriers faced by system-impacted students, move beyond the check box in admission applications, and provide support for the students. With an overview of education and criminal justice in the United States and a focus on the importance of increasing access to higher education for system-involved individuals, the Department of Education also shares data on the barriers that formerly incarcerated students face both during the admissions process and while enrolled. Based on the data, Beyond the Box offers recommendations to mitigate barriers to enrollment and ensure persistence and completion, as well as resources for further exploration, including organizations that are currently doing this work.

The Michelson 20MM Foundation is excited to support the findings in the report and is honored to be listed as a non-federal resource within the document. Four years ago, we launched our Smart Justice Initiative to leverage higher education as a catalytic force for transforming the lives of justice-involved individuals, while also reforming the justice system itself. We work to transform the communities impacted by our country’s punitive legal system forging brighter, more prosperous futures via education. It is encouraging to see national traction gained in the pursuit of making educational success more attainable for justice-impacted individuals.

As part of our commitment, we were proud to recently disseminate California’s Best Practices: Pathways from Prison to College, which were informed by the Smart Justice Think Tank (SJTT), and align with Beyond the Box’s recommendations in many ways by:

  • Acknowledging the needs and barriers to higher education faced from inside prison, the challenges of the application process, and the need for holding room for community and resources on college campuses
  • Recognizing and prioritizing basic human needs, such as housing, food security and transportation, while facilitating the processes to obtain required documents including birth certificates, ID’s, and transcripts
  • Considering and accommodating for parole and probation requirements
  • Developing an inclusive culture with dedicated community supports for formerly incarcerated students
  • Offering mental health services to meet the needs of system involved students
  • Providing academic support to formerly incarcerated students through transitional programing and ongoing counseling
  • Ensuring that career services are equipped to help system-involved students

Michelson 20MM looks forward to seeing this momentum grow within the country as together we  ensure currently and formerly incarcerated students can succeed within higher education.

About California’s Best Practices
California’s Best Practices provide a set of detailed strategies that stakeholders can implement nationwide to support students across three key phases of the carceral system-impacted student experience. Learn more.

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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