Cal State LA has received a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to establish an educational and employment program that supports individuals during incarceration and throughout the period of reentry into their communities.
The grant will help create a Prison to Careers Equity Pathway program at Cal State LA that will link formerly incarcerated college graduates with regional employers and community organizations to work toward achieving an equitable workforce.
The award is part of $4.4 billion in grants from the Department of Justice that will help build community capacity to curb violence, serve victims and youth, and achieve fair outcomes through evidence-based criminal and juvenile justice strategies.
“This grant is another indication of Cal State LA’s commitment to the transformational impact of education,” said Taffany Lim, executive director for the Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good and lead principal investigator on the grant. “When incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students earn college degrees, we are investing in the community’s social mobility and breaking down the cycle of intergenerational incarceration. Cal State LA has been a leader in this field since 2016 and we continue to be on the national forefront of this movement.”
This pilot program builds upon the continued success of the university’s Prison B.A. Graduation Initiative offered at the California State Prison, Los Angeles County in Lancaster.
Cal State LA’s Prison B.A. Graduation Initiative is the first in-person bachelor’s degree completion program for incarcerated students in California. It was started in 2016 with support from President Barack Obama’s Second Chance Pell federal pilot program and is also supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Through the program, the students earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, with a focus on organizational communication.
While higher degree attainment is associated with lower recidivism rates, Lim noted that research indicates that unemployment poses the greatest risk of recidivism.
“What we have learned from our incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students is that a bachelor’s degree alone is not enough,” Lim explained. “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.”
Through funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA) Second Chance Act Improving Reentry Education and Employment Outcomes program, the university’s pilot Prison to Career Equity Pathway program will provide students with professional development, training, coaching, career planning, and mentorship while they are inside and outside of prison. Cal State LA will partner with employers, community organizations, and Los Angeles County as part of this program.
“The pathway will allow the students to build their social capital and a professional network while gaining meaningful, paid work experiences after they have graduated and are released from prison,” said Lim.
The BJA, one of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, is committed to strengthening the nation’s criminal justice system and helping state, local, and tribal jurisdictions reduce and prevent crime, reduce recidivism, and promote a fair and safe criminal justice system.
The Second Chance Act Improving Reentry Education and Employment Outcomes program promotes an evidence-based and data-informed approach that will provide meaningful opportunities, interrupt the cycle of unemployment, improve economic mobility, and promote reentry success for formerly incarcerated adults.
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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.