From Incarceration to Graduation​

California has the largest prison system in the country. Through access to education, the CSU provides an opportunity to break the cycle of recidivism.

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Even though the United States represents about five percent of the global population, we account for nearly a quarter of the world's prisoners. In the United States, 2.3 million people are behind bars. California's rate of incarceration is 581 per 100,000 people.

“Since the 1970s, instead of addressing and resolving social problems related to unemployment, housing insecurity, food insecurity and mental health, the U.S. criminal justice system has served as a catch-all solution," says Brady Heiner, Ph.D., chair of the CSU Project Rebound Consortium and executive director of Project Rebound at California State University, Fullerton. “We need to address the underlying social problems that lead people to the track that lands them in prison."

The CSU firmly believes that education can create alternatives to the justice system's revolving door policy. The university's ​commitment to offering options to those touched by incarceration is evident in programs such as Project Rebound, which is active at multiple campuses, and the Prison BA Graduation Initiative at California​ State University, Los Angeles.

Ultimately, these students aren't the only ones who benefit from such programs. For every incarcerated person who doesn't return to prison, the state of California saves $75,000 per year. And, eventually, the majority of them will leave prison and return home. Education is key to their ability to find employment and contribute to their families and their communities when they do.    

“For incarcerated men and women, education can provide ways of reflecting upon what led them to prison, not just individual choices, but also the broader social set of forces and conditions that shaped their lives," says Bidhan Chandra Roy, Ph.D., Cal State LA English professor. “For many, this can provide a deeper sense of awareness of the conditions of incarceration and the possibilities for transformation for themselves, their communities and the world."

Find out more how the CSU is transforming the lives of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students. ​


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