Exploring the Pathways Project

By Christopher Zoukis

The Pathways Project is an initiative of the Vera Institute of Justice that supports education and reentry services for incarcerated and newly released prisoners.  The initiative currently involves three states: Michigan, New Jersey, and North Carolina.  Funded by leading philanthropic foundations, the initiative supports the tenet that education reduces recidivism.  This project also wants to demonstrate that their methods are both effective and affordable.   Image courtesy vimeo.com

Pathways Project Goals

The underlying goal of this initiative, like many other prison education initiatives, is to reduce recidivism.  Equally important, though, is providing individuals with a chance to better themselves and ultimately better communities in the states where this program operates.  The Vera Institute asserts that education can reduce recidivism among newly released prisoners.  They have also designed their program to disrupt “the cycle of inter-generational poverty” and to “improve the quality of life in neighborhoods disproportionately affected by crime and incarceration,” according to their website.  The initiative also lists their “cost-effective methods” as an important part of their overriding vision of prison education.  They want to promote their model as a viable solution for other states that might resist prison education funding due to factors of cost.

Program Basics

The initiative straddles educational pursuits in prison and outside of prison.  In essence, program designers target prisoners currently incarcerated and provide them with post-secondary education coursework and then they assist the individual once released by matching them with supportive reentry services as well as continuing education until that person has obtained their certification or degree.  The degree, of course, launches the individual into a new tier of employment possibilities.  By increasing the likelihood of employment based on education, that person is set up for success and has a reduced risk of returning to criminal lifestyles that ultimately lead right back to jail.

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