Prison-based educational programs creating degree pathways for incarcerated people

Two New Jersey institutions for decades have been working to help put incarcerated individuals on the path to a degree and reintegrate them onto college campuses upon their release, according to Education Dive. Even when Pell grant opportunities for prisoners were revoked in 1994, Rutgers University, a 30-campus public system, and Raritan Valley Community College worked privately to provide “educational associations.” The Second Chance Pell program, a pilot program launched in the 2016-17 school year targeting around 12,000 inmates at more than 100 penal institutions, further fueled those institutions’ efforts, co-authorizing them to work with seven New Jersey correctional facilities.

Education Dive reports that through the prison-based instruction offered by Rutgers and Raritan Valley, incarcerated individuals can earn an associate of arts degree for transfer or a bachelor of arts in criminal justice. Around 100 students have graduated while incarcerated, with 60 of those continuing on to enroll in the bachelor’s degree program.

Pennsylvania women’s prison offering optician certification opportunity

The Morning Call, meanwhile, reports that Cambridge Springs state prison near Erie, Pennsylvania, hosts the only accredited prep course for optician certification in the state. The certification focuses on an in-demand skill that puts incarcerated women on the path to a career in an optical lab with better pay and job security than “pink collar” roles, including cosmetology and clerical jobs. As of this spring, the program had a 200-person waitlist.

The program seeks to fill a persistent gap in job training for female inmates. Jill McCorkel, a Villanova University sociology professor who studies issues facing incarcerated women, notes that incarcerated women “have limited job skills and education, similar to men, but unlike men, there are fewer vocational and educational programs in women’s prisons.”

Kerry M. Richmond, a criminal justice professor from Lycoming College who studies prison industries, told The Morning Call that the rigor of the Cambridge Springs program experience “lessens the stigma of [participants’] criminal record” and differentiates them from other job applicants.

New video: Georgetown Prison Scholars Program at the DC Jail

With more than seven million Americans under some form of correctional supervision, “it’s imperative that we as a society try to help them succeed when they’re going to get out,” says Marc M. Howard, director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative at Georgetown University, in a short documentary on the Georgetown Prison Scholars Program at the DC Jail. The Scholars Program launched in January 2018 with a pilot phase serving 34 incarcerated men and women; the program’s summer series will provide courses and lectures to 48 incarcerated scholars, and the program will begin offering credit-bearing courses toward associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in fall 2018.

Watch the video below and learn more about the program on Georgetown’s Prisons and Justice Initiative website.

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