Project Rebound was awarded a Michelson Spark Grant to help close the equity gap for incarcerated women in California through their Prison to Career Equity Pathway program at California State University Los Angeles (Cal State LA). 

The Prison to Career Equity Pathway program is uniquely positioned to build upon the school’s Prison Graduation Initiative, which has offered in-person bachelor degree-granting programs for justice-impacted students since 2016. Through the Spark Grant, they will take the pathway from prison to reintegration one step further.

A Bachelor’s Degree Is Not Enough to Prevent Recidivism 

Alumni of the Prison Graduation Initiative (PGI) program have shed light on the fact that a four-year degree alone is not sufficient for sustainable re-entry. “Even if one of our Cal State LA alumni is released from prison with a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude, it is very difficult to pursue a meaningful career and obtain a job where they can utilize both their lived and academic experience,” Taffany Lim, Executive Director for the Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good shared. In fact, unemployment can be a significant indicator of recidivism.

Closing the Equity Gap among Projects for Justice-Impacted Women

In addition to recognizing the need to provide career pathways, Project Rebound at Cal State LA also sees that women traditionally do not receive as many resources or higher education programs as men. 

Their project will provide incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women an opportunity to pursue meaningful career opportunities as college graduates. This includes leveraging funding from the Bureau of Justice Administration to conduct a pilot program at Lancaster State Prison. The pilot will reach approximately 50 individuals in its first year, ensuring they have the tools and opportunities needed to pursue meaningful careers post-graduation. 

Potential to Scale and Support 8,000+ Justice-Impacted Women 

California is home to more than 8,000 incarcerated women. Although the pilot will focus on the California Institute for Women, Project Rebound’s efforts have the potential to scale throughout the state. 

The team will create online career preparatory exercises, with further funding they can offer additional micro-internships. Additionally, the project serves as a model for other post secondary institutes to implement. 

“By offering replicable and scalable pathways, Project Rebound aims to empower formerly incarcerated college graduates to contribute positively to society through meaningful careers,” Kenia Mirando Verdugo, Smart Justice Program Manager shared. “We are proud to help close the equity gap incarcerated women face and cannot wait to see it eradicated.” 

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation working toward equity for underserved and historically underrepresented communities by expanding access to educational and employment opportunities, increasing affordability of educational programs, and ensuring the necessary supports are in place for individuals to thrive. To do so, we work in the following verticals: Digital Equity, Intellectual Property, Smart Justice, Student Basic Needs, and Open Educational Resources (OER). Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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