From Prison to College: Major Foundations Fund Five-Year Study Bridging Divide

By , Deseret News

That education plays a key role in keeping children and adults out of trouble is widely understood, and yet there has been surprisingly little effort to figure out the role education plays in reforming prisoners.

This fall, three states will set out on a five-year journey to change that. Sponsored by the Vera Institute of Justice and funded by some of the most prominent charities, including the Bill and Melinda Gates, Ford, Kellogg, Open Society and Sunshine Lady foundations, Michigan, New Jersey and North Carolina will take prisoners two years before their release and put them in an intensive education program of vocational or college coursework.  Image courtesy

Prisoners who complete the program, called Pathways, in prison will then continue their coursework on the outside, transitioning without interruption from there to the employment market.

Twenty years ago prisoners could receive Pell grants for college coursework, but critics saw this as coddling criminals at taxpayer expense and eligibility was stripped in 1994. Higher education in prisons has languished since then, becoming heavily dependent on private efforts, and it varies widely from state to state and prison to prison.

The five-year experiment will be evaluated by the RAND Corporation, said Fred Patrick, who is spearheading the program for the Vera Institute of Justice. Patrick hopes the resulting data will “move the needle” on public investment for prisoner education.

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I’m FREE – Females Reentering Empowering Each Other

Women who have spent time in prison, often have a much harder time reentering into society than men do. There is much stigma placed on women who have spent time in prison and they have been separated from their children, family,  friends and support groups. Many of these women suffer from depression, ill-health and mental health. 

The Females Reentering Empowering Each Other, known as I’m FREE, works with women who have been incarcerated in Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey in helping them to self-sustaining lifestyles. The organization offers year-long residential training to assist women who have recently been released from the judicial system and are members of the Council for Returning Citizens at Resources for Human Development. 

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Time for Change Foundation

The numbers of women and children that are homeless in the United States is staggering. In San Bernardino County California alone, there are more than 1,200 homeless women and children. Many of these women are struggling with substance abuse, and are victims of family and domestic violence. Many of these women have been sent to prison for these issues, and have re-entered into society unable to find employment to provide shelter for themselves and their children.

The Time for Change Foundation is working diligently to face the many issues these homeless women and children face each day. The goal of the Time for Change Foundation is to help provide housing and re-entry services to these women who are willing to make a big change in their lives toward improvement. This takes hard work, faith and support.

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Exodus Transitional Community

Being released from prison can often be a traumatic affair. Society often places a stigma on ex-prisoners that can make out difficult to find gainful employment, fair housing and most importantly, self-esteem. Many ex-offenders find themselves in financial difficulty upon release from prison, they feel a burden on their families and society and often revert to crime, leading back to prison. 

In 1999, Mr. Julio Medina founded Exodus Transitional Community. Exodus was founded on the principle that individuals cannot be successfully released from prison without resources to support the transition from prison to society.


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Jails to Jobs

For many incarcerated prisoners, the thought of finding employment once they are released can be a daunting task. And this is where Jails to Jobs comes along to help directly with this issue. Jails to Jobs is an organization that helps ex-offenders find the tools they may need to help themselves find gainful employment, from resume writing to handling interviews.

In the words of Jails to Jobs, “The most critical factors in achieving a successful job hunt are attitude, persistence and having a plan. The first thing you must do is to create a mind set and put together the tools you need to carry out your search.”

Which begins the process of Jails to Jobs helping each and every individual ex-prisoner find their unique potential in the working world. Ex-prisoners begin with a self-assessment and then move on to applying past work experience skills to find potential jobs that may require some of those same skills.

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