From the streets to programming tweets

By Christopher Zoukis One of the biggest obstacles we face in prison education programs these days, is the outpacing of technology in terms of both course content and equipment. Technological development has occurred at breakneck speed in the last ten

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The Next Tech Boom Is Taking Place Behind Bars

By Joseph Erbentraut When San Francisco-based venture capitalists Chris Redlitz and Beverly Parenti walked into San Quentin State Prison in 2010 to speak with a group of inmates that a friend was mentoring, they didn’t know what exactly to expect.

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Investment Guru Teaches Financial Literacy While Serving Life Sentence

By Editor of Radio WPSU Prison is perhaps the last place anyone would expect to learn about investing and money management. But at San Quentin Prison, Curtis Carroll’s class is a hot item. The 36-year-old has gained a reputation for

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San Quentin’s Prison University Gives Inmates Freedom to Learn

By Greta Kaul / SF Gate San Quentin is home to the Prison University Project, the largest on-site college-in-prison program among California state prisons. Inmates in PUP earn their associate’s degree for free, with volunteer instructors from schools like Stanford

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San Quentin’s Prison University Project

By Christopher Zoukis

San Quentin’s Prison University Project is a Liberal Arts-based college program that currently boasts more than 300 inmates enrolled in classes.  The project is an extension of Patten University, an accredited university of Oakland, California.  Supported by the Prison University Project, the San Quentin program offers courses Sunday-Friday.  Inmates who are enrolled in the project typically take two classes each semester and work toward their Associate of Arts degree.  For those students who are not yet ready to enroll in college-level coursework, the project also includes college-preparatory classes.

About the Prison University Project

Founded in 1996, the Prison University Project began with a mere two classes and a single coordinator working on a volunteer basis.  Today, the program’s faculty continues on a volunteer basis.  Funding is obtained through donations from both private individuals and foundations.  To date, more than one hundred inmates have earned their Associates Degree.  Though many are released from prison on parole, they often continue their studies nonetheless.  The program includes courses in English, Math, Science, Humanities, and Social Sciences.  Although a high school diploma or GED are prerequisites for enrollment in the program, many enrollees still require preparatory coursework before entering the Associate of Arts program.  Image courtesy

Faculty and Staff

Since the project’s early days when it relied on one coordinator, the Prison University Project now boasts ten staff members who operate the program daily.  Staff members also oversee budgetary aspects of the program and participate in advocacy events for higher learning in prisons.  Since this program began nearly two decades ago as a response to the government’s cutting of prison education programs, it has steadily grown by building its own support base and working with publishers who often donate the project’s text books or other learning materials.

Each faculty member volunteers their time to teach the prison inmates who participate in both the college preparatory and Associates of Arts programs.  According to the project’s website,

“Most of the volunteer instructors, teaching assistants, guest lecturers and tutors who participate in the College Program are graduate students or faculty from the University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State University, Stanford University, and other local colleges and universities. All primary instructors hold at least a master’s degree in the field in which they teach.”

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The California Reentry Program

For prisoners finally being released from California prisons, The California Reentry Program is available to assist prisoners facing the outside world and parole. Facing and adhering to parole can be a daunting task for someone who has been incarcerated for any period of times. Job skills training, social skills beyond prison walls, housing, clothing – these are all situations that newly released prisoners must face.

The California Reentry Program began in 2003 when a prisoner being released from San Quentin approached a prison education instructor, asking about financial college aid, college admissions, and various other topics that would help the prisoner successfully renter society and continue his education. It became clear at that time that there were very limited resources for ex-offenders to learn about resources and local opportunities upon release.

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