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California’s Best Practices:
Pathways From Prison to College

 

Programs such as Pelican Bay Scholars at College of the Redwoods provide face-to-face college courses to incarcerated students.

Photo credit: Tony Wallin-Sato

Ensuring that all currently and formerly incarcerated persons have an equal opportunity to succeed as students and individuals

Centering the Needs of Students

Providing On-Campus Supports

Ensuring Access and Equity

All students deserve the right to an equal opportunity to succeed as students and individuals–this is the philosophy behind California’s Best Practices: Pathways from Prison to College. In 2021, the Michelson 20MM Foundation convened leading experts, advocates, and student leaders to form the Smart Justice Think Tank (SJTT). The Best Practices identified are directly informed by the lived experiences of justice-impacted scholars and their academic advisors/mentees. 

Guided by the belief that higher education can lead to a better quality of life for currently and formerly incarcerated students, their families, and entire communities, the Michelson 20MM Foundation in partnership with Root and Rebound formed the SJTT with the goal of mapping out Best Practices for supporting currently and formerly incarcerated students in their educational journey. 

Building on California’s success in growing access to higher education for current and formerly incarcerated individuals, this resource lays out detailed strategies to support students across three key phases:

  • Students currently incarcerated
  • Students transitioning from prison to campus
  • Students enrolled on campus who were previously incarcerated

Post-secondary prison education programs, correctional facilities, on-campus support programs, and higher education institutions all stand to benefit from adopting the Best Practices identified in this resource to center the unique needs of currently and formerly incarcerated scholars. 

 

Download a copy of California’s Best Practices: Pathways from Prison to College

smart justice best practices

Take the Prison to College Pledge

Help us spread the word and grow this incredible community of education advocates by adding your name to the list of individuals and organizations committed to centering the needs of currently and formerly incarcerated students.

Upcoming Events

Introducing California’s Best Practices: Pathways From Prison to College

Join us on September 14th, 11 AM – 12 PM,  as members of the Smart Justice Think Tank and authors of California’s Best Practices: Pathways From Prison to College provide an overview of the recommendations and share insights on the positive impacts of investing in post-secondary education in prison, on-campus support programs for formerly incarcerated students, and pathways to economic success.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Smart Justice Think Tank?

Recognizing that higher education can lead to a better quality of life for currently and formerly incarcerated students, their families, and our communities, the Michelson 20MM Foundation, in partnership with Root and Rebound, convened the Smart Justice Think Tank to aid in these efforts to increase educational opportunities for current and formerly incarcerated Californians. 

The Smart Justice Think Tank seeks to ensure that all currently and formerly incarcerated persons have an equal opportunity to succeed as students and individuals. It is a coalition of formerly incarcerated students, directly impacted leaders, faculty, staff, administrators, non-profit leaders, researchers, and supporters of higher education programs in prisons and on-campus support programs. As a collective, the Smart Justice Think Tank understands the value of educational programs for those able to access college in prison or on-campus.

Why were these best practices created?

California is a nationwide leader in prison and on-campus support programs in postsecondary education. The goal of the Smart Justice Think Tank was to develop a concise list of best practices that safeguard the unique needs of currently and formerly incarcerated students in California’s higher education system and address problems, gaps, and issues impacting your educational experience.

There is not enough educational, financial, and mental support for students in prison and transitioning out of prison. The Best Practices serve as the first acknowledgment of the issues and an understanding of what needs to be done to get rid of these barriers.

Who should download these best practices?

We developed these recommendations for public and private post-secondary institutions and non-profit organizations serving incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students in California. We invite legislators, legislative staff, correctional officers, educational institutions (staff and faculty), organizations in this space, and researchers to download a copy.

What should you do with this information?

We hope that policy advocates and public policy organizations create a legislative agenda based on recommendations of the best practices.

Who provided these recommendations?

Formerly incarcerated leaders, organizations in this space, and educational staff and faculty helped develop these best practices. The Smart Justice Think Tank’s work is also informed by feedback from students who are currently incarcerated. We received first-hand information about what barriers exist and what feasible solutions are available.

Meet the Members of the Smart Justice Think Tank

Nohealani Casperson

Nohealani Casperson

Advisory Committee Member

Rising Scholars Network at Cypress College

Audrey Dow

Audrey Dow

Senior Vice President

Campaign for College Opportunity

Peter Fulks

Peter Fulks

Professor

Cerro Coso Community College

Steven Green

Steven Green

Project Rebound Scholar

Project Rebound at California State University, Fullerton

Joe Louis Hernandez

Joe Louis Hernandez

Coordinator

Rising Scholars Network at Mount San Antonio College

Tyee Griffith

Tyee Griffith

Program Manager

Claremont Colleges

Martin Leyva

Martin Leyva

Program Coordinator

Project Rebound at California State University, San Marcos

Taffany Lim

Taffany Lim

Executive Director

Center for Engagement, Service, and Public Good at California State University, Los Angeles

Kevin McCarthy

Kevin McCarthy

Coordinator, Incarcerated Scholars Program

Berkeley Underground Scholars

Danny Murillo

Danny Murillo

Smart Justice Fellow

Michelson 20MM Foundation

Wil Del Pilar

Wil Del Pilar

Vice president of Higher Education Policy and Practice

Education Trust

Romarilyn Ralston

Romarilyn Ralston

Director

Program Director, CSU Fullerton Project Rebound

Keramet Reiter

Keramet Reiter

Director

University of California, Irvine, Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Educational Degrees (LIFTED)

Gabe J. Rosales

Gabe J. Rosales

Rehabilitative Program Provider

Underground Scholars at University of California, Irvine

Rebecca Silbert

Rebecca Silbert

Senior Director

Rising Scholars Network, Foundation for California Community Colleges

Gail Yen

Gail Yen

CA Policy Director

Root and Rebound

Azadeh Zohrabi

Azadeh Zohrabi

Executive Director

JD, Berkeley Underground Scholars