SACRAMENTO –The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) have signed an agreement to expand and increase inmate access to community college courses that will lead to degrees, certificates or will transfer to a four-year university.
The contract was made possible by the September 2014 passage of Senate Bill (SB) 1391, authored by State Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley). SB 1391 provides CCCCO up to $2 million to create and support at least four pilot sites, still to be determined, to allow inmate students to earn college credits and access to counseling, placement, and disability support services.
“One of the best accomplishments of SB 1391 is the coalition between CDCR and the Chancellor’s Office,” Superintendent of CDCR’s Office of Correctional Education Brantley Choate said. “We are now inspired to work collaboratively to break down departmental silos to create the best correctional college system in the world.”
The funds will be used from the State’s Recidivism Reduction Fund, created in 2014 by Senate Bill 105 to help CDCR comply with court-ordered inmate population reductions.
The programs at the pilot sites must provide college-level instruction to both male and female inmates seeking certificates, associate degrees, or for which course credits are transferrable to four-year universities or colleges. Instruction may be delivered through in-class, instructional television, or other methods. The programs will also offer support services such as college orientation, counseling and academic advisement and student education plans.
A recent RAND report found that every dollar invested in inmate education resulted in $5 saved in future prison costs.
Previously, California community colleges did not receive funding for courses taught inside state prisons. This limited many higher education opportunities for inmates to distance learning models and lacked continuity in coursework between prisons.
CDCR will work collaboratively with CCCCO and participating colleges to determine suitable program offerings in each of the selected institutions.
“Expanding access to higher education can have tremendous benefits for incarcerated students and those around them,” said California Community Colleges Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Pam Walker. “Community colleges can provide incarcerated students with new skills and perspectives that can help build better lives and reduce recidivism. We look forward to working with CDCR on this potentially life-changing initiative.”
CDCR will provide the classroom space, furniture, equipment and technology necessary. CDCR will also provide training to participating California community college staff, faculty and volunteers regarding the unique challenges of providing educational services to inmates.
CDCR expects to begin classes by September 2015.
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March 16, 2015