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Education opportunities exist for people serving time in California penal institutions. Although, taking advantage of college courses wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today, due to legislation approved three years ago. Thanks to Senate Bill 1391, the Golden State leads the nation in inmate education, according to a new report from Stanford Criminal Justice Center and The Opportunity Institute. In 2014, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 1391 into law, allowing community colleges to offer face-to-face courses inside state prison. At the time of the legislation passing only one prison had a college program through a private university.

The report shows that nearly 4,500 California inmates were enrolled in face-to-face community college classes in 34 of the state’s 35 prisons by the fall of 2017. In every sense, California’s public colleges and universities offer those incarcerated a second chance. SB-1391 was a significant step forward regarding jailhouse education, but other variables played a role in California leading the nation by example.

“In just three short years, California has built a new generation of college students and graduates, creating onramps to redemption and prosperity for thousands. Early data shows that incarcerated students are doing as well as or better than their on-campus counterparts, including earning higher grades,” said Debbie Mukamal, Executive Director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, and co-author of the report.


Supporting Inmates Bent On Education

There are two unique factors to California that had a hand in more inmates taking advantage of college. Firstly, public colleges and universities across the state have no undergraduate admissions barriers for students with a criminal past. Second, inmates can utilize the California College Promise Grant, which takes care of inmate tuition costs just as it would any other student in the state.

Stanford Law School points out California is unique regarding educational grants. In the rest of the country, inmates are barred from Pell Grants; unless they are attending school at just 67 colleges that take part in the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program. Many of the community colleges in California go beyond allowing inmates to enroll, a significant number of schools have student groups or support programs for formerly incarcerated students, the article reports. Rebecca Silbert, Senior Fellow at The Opportunity Institute in Berkeley, and co-author of the report says:

We can’t stop now. We owe it to ourselves and to those who are changing their lives to make sure that degree pathways in our public colleges and universities remain open to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students into the future.”


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you, or a loved one, is facing criminal charges, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over 30 years of experience, attorney Brower can give you the best chance of finding a favorable outcome.

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