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How this Vietnam vet started a college program at a desert prison

James “Sneaky” White, 80, spent nearly four decades incarcerated in California. His nickname “Sneaky” comes from his days as a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. While he was incarcerated, he helped create a college program that has since graduated more than 1,500 men. At the time, San Quentin was the only other prison in the state where incarcerated people could earn degrees. 

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Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2023

This report from the Prison Policy Initiative offers some much-needed clarity by piecing together the data about this country’s disparate systems of confinement. It provides a detailed look at where and why people are locked up in the U.S., and dispels some modern myths to focus attention on the real drivers of mass incarceration and overlooked issues that call for reform.

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What’s the Difference Between Grants, Scholarships, and Loans?

Scholarships, grants, and loans are some of the many options available to help you pay for your college education. But figuring out how to access and combine them can be overwhelming.

This article will help answer questions like, “How do you qualify for a grant vs. a scholarship?” and “How do you apply for student loans vs. scholarships?” Plus, it'll show you how to apply for scholarships, grants, and loans as well as the best way to put them all together so you can save the most money.

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Documentary: College Behind Bars

This four-part, Emmy-nominated PBS documentary offers an intimate look at the lives and experiences of a dozen incarcerated students participating in the Bard Prison Initiative and their families. The documentary confronts and challenges conventional wisdom about the purpose of both education and incarceration.

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Webinar: The Historic Return of Pell Funding for Incarcerated Students and What Comes Next

On March 10, 2021, George Chochos, Senior Federal Policy Associate at the Vera Institute of Justice; Rev. Vivian Nixon, Executive Director of College & Community Fellowship; and Max Kenner, Executive Director of the Bard Prison Initiative, joined this webinar to discuss the historical restoration of Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students and what the return of federal student aid funding will mean for the field of college-in-prison. Over 150 attendees from across BPI’s network including alumni, supporters, and colleagues in the field joined in the webinar.

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The New York Times: Something Wonderful Is Happening in American Prisons. Really.

This article is a guest essay written in the New York Times by Max Kenner, founder and executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative at Bard College. Mr. Kenner argues that the FAFSA Simplification Act "has the potential to do more good within U.S. prisons than any policy in a generation." But, he continues, the work has just begun.

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Reentry Myth Busters: Veterans Health Care

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: A Veteran with criminal convictions or a history of incarceration is not eligible for VA health care.

Fact: An eligible Veteran, who is not currently incarcerated, can use VA care regardless of any criminal history, including incarceration. Only when an otherwise eligible Veteran is currently incarcerated, or in fugitive felon status, is he or she not able to use VA health care.

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Reentry Myth Busters: Veterans Benefits

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: Veterans cannot request to have their VA benefits resumed until they are officially released from incarceration.

Fact: Veterans may inform VA to have their benefits resumed within 30 days or less of their anticipated release date based on evidence from a parole board or other official prison source showing the Veteran’s scheduled release date.

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Reentry Myth Busters: SNAP Benefits/Mailing Address

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: An individual cannot apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) benefits without a mailing address.

Fact: A person can get SNAP benefits even if he or she does not have a mailing address.

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Reentry Myth Busters: SNAP Benefits/ID

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: An individual cannot apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) benefits without a valid State-issued identification card.

Fact: A person can get SNAP benefits even if he or she does not have a valid State ID.

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Reentry Myth Busters: SNAP Benefits

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: Individuals convicted of a felony can never receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) benefits.

Fact: This ban applies only to convicted drug felons, and only thirteen States have kept the ban in place in its entirety. Most States have modified or eliminated the ban.

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Reentry Myth Busters: Medicaid Suspension vs. Termination

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: Medicaid agencies are required to terminate benefits if an otherwise eligible individual is incarcerated.

Fact: States are not required to terminate eligibility for individuals who are incarcerated based solely on inmate status. States may suspend eligibility during incarceration, enabling an individual to remain enrolled in the state Medicaid program, thereby facilitating access to Medicaid services following release. 

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Reentry Myth Busters: TANF Benefits

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: A parent with a felony conviction cannot receive TANF/welfare.

Fact: The 1996 Welfare ban applies only to convicted drug felons, and only eleven states have kept the ban in place in its entirety. Most states have modified or eliminated the ban.

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Reentry Myth Busters: Child Support

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: Non-custodial parents who are incarcerated cannot have their child support orders reduced.

Fact: Half of all states have formalized processes for reducing child support orders during incarceration. Three-quarters of all states have laws that permit incarcerated parents to obtain a reduced or suspended support order.

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Reentry Myth Busters: Parental Rights

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: Child welfare agencies are required to terminate parental rights if a parent is incarcerated.

Fact: Important exceptions to the requirement to terminate parental rights provide child welfare agencies and states with the discretion to work with incarcerated parents, their children and the caregivers to preserve and strengthen family relationships.

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Reentry Myth Busters: Public Housing

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: Individuals who have been convicted of a crime are “banned” from public housing.

Fact: Public Housing Authorities have great discretion in determining their admissions and occupancy policies for ex-offenders. While PHAs can choose to ban ex-offenders from participating in public housing and Section 8 programs, it is not HUD policy to do so. In fact, in many circumstances, formerly incarcerated people should not be denied access.

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Reentry Myth Busters: Voting Rights

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: An individual with a felony conviction can never vote.

Fact: Nearly every state has a restoration process to regain voting rights. Only a few states do not allow reenfranchisement, and those restrictions only apply to a few specific offenses. Generally, it is not a matter of whether one can vote, but how and when one can vote.

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Reentry Myth Busters: Federal Taxes

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: Incarceration exempts individuals from the requirement to file taxes, halts the accumulation of federal tax debts, and prohibits the receipt of tax credits and deductions upon release.

Fact: Incarceration neither changes one’s obligation to pay taxes and tax debts nor prohibits the receipt of tax credits and deductions upon release.

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Reentry Myth Busters: Social Security Benefits

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: Eligibility for Social Security benefits cannot be reinstated when an individual is released from incarceration.

Fact: Social Security benefits are not payable if an individual is convicted of a criminal offense and confined. However, monthly benefits usually can be reinstated after a period of incarceration by contacting Social Security and providing proof of release.

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Reentry Myth Busters: Work Opportunity Tax Credit

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: Employers have no federal income tax advantage by hiring an ex-felon.

Fact: Employers can save money on their federal income taxes in the form of a tax credit incentive through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program by hiring ex-felons. An ex-felon under WOTC is an individual who has been convicted of a felony under any statute of the United States or any State, and has a hiring date which is within one year from the date of conviction or release from prison.

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Reentry Myth Busters: Federal Hiring Policies

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: The Federal Government’s hiring policies prohibit employment of people with criminal records.

Fact: The Federal Government does not have a policy that precludes employment of people with criminal records from all positions.

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Reentry Myth Busters: Federal Bonding Program

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: Businesses and employers have no way to protect themselves from potential property and monetary losses should an individual they hire prove to be dishonest.

Fact: Through the Federal Bonding Program (FBP), funded and administered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), fidelity insurance bonds are available to indemnify employers for loss of money or property sustained through the dishonest acts of their employees (i.e., theft, forgery, larceny, and embezzlement).

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Reentry Myth Busters: Criminal Histories and Employment Background Checks

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families.

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: An employer can get a copy of your criminal history from companies that do background checks without your permission.

Fact: According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), employers must get one’s permission, usually in writing, before asking a background screening company for a criminal history report. If one does not give permission or authorization, the application for employment may not get reviewed. If a person does give permission but does not get hired because of information in the report, the potential employer must follow several legal obligations.

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Reentry Myth Busters: Hiring/Criminal Records Guidance

The Reentry Myth Busters are a series of fact sheets created by the partner agencies within the Federal Interagency Reentry Council's (FIRC) and intended to clarify existing federal policies that affect individuals who were formerly incarcerated and their families. 

This fact sheet addresses the following:

Myth: People with criminal records are automatically barred from employment.

Fact: An arrest or conviction record will NOT automatically bar individuals from employment.

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Locked Out: Improving Educational and Vocational Outcomes for Incarcerated Youth

To understand the extent to which states provide incarcerated youth with access to educational and vocational services; track and use student outcome data, and support school reenrollment for these youth, The Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators surveyed juvenile correctional agencies in all 50 states. 

This issue brief highlights the key findings of the survey and provides state and local policymakers with policy and practice recommendations to improve college and career readiness for incarcerated youth. The brief provides examples of how select states have translated these recommendations into policy and practice.

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Federal Interagency Reentry Council: A Record of Progress and a Roadmap for the Future

The Federal Interagency Reentry Council (FIRC) began work in 2011 to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes related to employment, education, housing, health, and child welfare. Comprised of more than 20 federal agencies, the Reentry Council coordinated and leveraged existing federal resources; dispelled myths and clarified policies; elevated programs and policies that work; and reduced the policy barriers to successful reentry.

On April 29, 2016, President Barack Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum that formally established the Federal Interagency Reentry Council (FIRC) to help ensure the federal government continues this important work. 

This report responds to that directive by laying out specific agency actions – development of training, technical assistance, and strategic communications – to ensure federal staff, as well as state, local, and community stakeholders, are aware of the tools available to them, and are using them to implement robust reentry policies and programs.

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Federal Interagency Reentry Council: A Record of Progress and a Roadmap for the Future

The Federal Interagency Reentry Council (FIRC) began work in 2011 to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes related to employment, education, housing, health, and child welfare. Comprised of more than 20 federal agencies, the Reentry Council coordinated and leveraged existing federal resources; dispelled myths and clarified policies; elevated programs and policies that work; and reduced the policy barriers to successful reentry.

On April 29, 2016, President Barack Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum that formally established the Federal Interagency Reentry Council (FIRC) to help ensure the federal government continues this important work. 

This report responds to that directive by laying out specific agency actions – development of training, technical assistance, and strategic communications – to ensure federal staff, as well as state, local, and community stakeholders, are aware of the tools available to them, and are using them to implement robust reentry policies and programs.

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Federal Interagency Reentry Council: A Record of Progress and a Roadmap for the Future

The Federal Interagency Reentry Council (FIRC) began work in 2011 to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes related to employment, education, housing, health, and child welfare. Comprised of more than 20 federal agencies, the Reentry Council coordinated and leveraged existing federal resources; dispelled myths and clarified policies; elevated programs and policies that work; and reduced the policy barriers to successful reentry.

On April 29, 2016, President Barack Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum that formally established the Federal Interagency Reentry Council (FIRC) to help ensure the federal government continues this important work. 

This report responds to that directive by laying out specific agency actions – development of training, technical assistance, and strategic communications – to ensure federal staff, as well as state, local, and community stakeholders, are aware of the tools available to them, and are using them to implement robust reentry policies and programs.

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Federal Interagency Reentry Council Fact Sheet

The Federal Interagency Reentry Council worked to reduce recidivism and improve employment, education, housing, health and child welfare outcomes. Comprised of more than 20 federal agencies, the Reentry Council coordinated and leveraged existing federal resources that were targeted to reentry; used the bully pulpit to dispel myths; clarified policies and provided visibility to programs and policies that work; and reduced the policy barriers to successful reentry. The council was recognized in a 2014 GAO report as one of four model interagency collaborations, and the council’s collective work at the federal level–detailed in this fact sheet–has set a positive example for many states, several of which have started similar councils.

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Federal Interagency Reentry Council Fact Sheet

The Federal Interagency Reentry Council worked to reduce recidivism and improve employment, education, housing, health and child welfare outcomes. Comprised of more than 20 federal agencies, the Reentry Council coordinated and leveraged existing federal resources that were targeted to reentry; used the bully pulpit to dispel myths; clarified policies and provided visibility to programs and policies that work; and reduced the policy barriers to successful reentry. The council was recognized in a 2014 GAO report as one of four model interagency collaborations, and the council’s collective work at the federal level–detailed in this fact sheet–has set a positive example for many states, several of which have started similar councils.

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Federal Interagency Reentry Council Fact Sheet

The Federal Interagency Reentry Council worked to reduce recidivism and improve employment, education, housing, health and child welfare outcomes. Comprised of more than 20 federal agencies, the Reentry Council coordinated and leveraged existing federal resources that were targeted to reentry; used the bully pulpit to dispel myths; clarified policies and provided visibility to programs and policies that work; and reduced the policy barriers to successful reentry. The council was recognized in a 2014 GAO report as one of four model interagency collaborations, and the council’s collective work at the federal level–detailed in this fact sheet–has set a positive example for many states, several of which have started similar councils.

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College in prison? In Florida, not so much.

Higher education opportunities in Florida’s prisons are hard to come by. Today, only around 326 students are enrolled in college programs in Florida prisons, according to data provided by colleges. That’s only a tiny fraction of the more than 80,000 people incarcerated in the state. Ten sites offer college programs, including one reentry center and a privately run prison. The Florida Department of Corrections oversees 128 correctional facilities. This article examines Florida's offerings of higher education options for incarcerated students. 

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The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Final Rules

The bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed by President Obama on July 22, 2014, created a new vision for how America prepares an educated and skilled workforce that expands opportunities for workers and employers.

The 21st-century public workforce development system created through WIOA builds closer ties between business leaders, state and local Workforce Development Boards, labor unions, community colleges, non-profit organizations, youth-serving organizations, and State and local officials to deliver a more job-driven approach to training and skills development.

These final regulations provide the foundation upon which services to individuals and businesses can be strengthened and improved over time.

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Investing in Postsecondary Career Pathways

This brief from the National Skills Coalition proposes a new $500 million Career Pathways Support Fund that would allow community and technical colleges to provide critical academic, counseling, and support services that help low-income and other nontraditional students succeed in job-driven education programs. The report highlights promising practices in career development from three states that are tackling these issues head-on, including the Career Pathways Initiative in Arkansas, the Pathways for Academic Career and Employment (PACE) program in Iowa, and the Basic Skills Plus program in North Carolina. The report maps out future opportunities for federal investment in career pathways and provides an overview of current federal efforts to support parents and other adult students, which have not kept up with the growing demands of today’s college enrollees.

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Higher Education and Reentry: The Gifts They Bring

This Participatory Action Research study, conducted by Michelle Fine, Alexis Halkovic (CUNY Graduate Center) and a team of research assistants, explores the lived experiences of people with criminal justice histories as they attend and contemplate enrolling in college. The report highlights the journeys of these students and considers a number of important questions: What does it take for people with criminal justice histories to successfully transform the trajectory of their lives? What are the obstacles they face? What affirmative steps can we take to make our public and private colleges and universities more welcoming to this growing population of students?

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Higher Education and Reentry: The Gifts They Bring

This Participatory Action Research study, conducted by Michelle Fine, Alexis Halkovic (CUNY Graduate Center) and a team of research assistants, explores the lived experiences of people with criminal justice histories as they attend and contemplate enrolling in college. The report highlights the journeys of these students and considers a number of important questions: What does it take for people with criminal justice histories to successfully transform the trajectory of their lives? What are the obstacles they face? What affirmative steps can we take to make our public and private colleges and universities more welcoming to this growing population of students?

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Mapping the City University of New York: The University’s Commitment to Students Impacted by the Criminal Legal System

This report details the scope of CUNY’s policies and programs for students impacted by the criminal legal system and explores opportunities for CUNY to better support those students. As an engine for upward social mobility, CUNY is well positioned to promote the educational and professional advancement of students who have been historically denied access to higher education, especially students who have been involved in the criminal legal system. Higher education transforms lives, creates opportunities, and mitigates the collateral consequences of mass incarceration. This report should serve as a catalyst and foundation for developing a more comprehensive and integrated approach to welcoming and supporting students with past criminal legal system involvement at the country’s largest urban university system.

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Mapping the City University of New York: The University’s Commitment to Students Impacted by the Criminal Legal System

This report details the scope of CUNY’s policies and programs for students impacted by the criminal legal system and explores opportunities for CUNY to better support those students. As an engine for upward social mobility, CUNY is well positioned to promote the educational and professional advancement of students who have been historically denied access to higher education, especially students who have been involved in the criminal legal system. Higher education transforms lives, creates opportunities, and mitigates the collateral consequences of mass incarceration. This report should serve as a catalyst and foundation for developing a more comprehensive and integrated approach to welcoming and supporting students with past criminal legal system involvement at the country’s largest urban university system.

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Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative Update

This fact sheet provides an update on outcomes—including expanding enrollment, course offerings, and degrees awarded—from the Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative. The initiative, launched by the U.S. Department of Education in 2015, provides need-based Pell grants to people in state and federal prisons through partnerships with 65 colleges in 27 states. The Vera Institute of Justice has provided technical assistance to the participating colleges and corrections departments, helping to ensure that these programs are providing quality higher education both in prison and post release.

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College After Prison: A Review of the Literature on Barriers and Supports to Postsecondary Education for Formerly Incarcerated College Students

This report synthesizes existing literature around higher education for formerly incarcerated individuals and describes the need for more work in this area. More than 650,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons and return to the community each year. However, most programming and research have been concentrated on correctional education. As a result, formerly incarcerated individuals are largely not recognized as a student group needing support, programming, and research in the higher education space.

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College After Prison: A Review of the Literature on Barriers and Supports to Postsecondary Education for Formerly Incarcerated College Students

This report synthesizes existing literature around higher education for formerly incarcerated individuals and describes the need for more work in this area. More than 650,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons and return to the community each year. However, most programming and research have been concentrated on correctional education. As a result, formerly incarcerated individuals are largely not recognized as a student group needing support, programming, and research in the higher education space.

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Reflections on Building a Partnership with Corrections

This guide is part of an effort to provide college providers with the necessary tools for developing programs that are responsive to the unique environment of correctional facilities. While designed specifically for college programs that operate in New York State (NYS) Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) facilities, this guide may also be useful for organizations and colleges outside of New York that wish to establish or enhance college-in-prison programs. 

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Second Chance Pell: A Snapshot of the First Three Years

The Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative, launched by the U.S. Department of Education in 2015, provides need-based Pell Grants to people in state and federal prisons. Second Chance Pell has active partnerships with 64 colleges that teach in 28 states. The schools were selected in June 2016 for the initiative, which examines whether expanding access to financial aid increases incarcerated adults’ partici­pation in educational opportunities. The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) is providing technical assistance to the participating colleges and corrections departments, helping to ensure that the programs provide quality higher education in prison and post-release. This policy brief summarizes survey data that 60 of the participating colleges submitted to Vera about the first three years of the project.

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The Impacts of College Education in Prison: An Analysis of the College-in-Prison Reentry Initiative Fact Sheet

Access to education is in high demand among the incarcerated population. There are clear benefits to students who are incarcerated, their families and communities, public safety, and safety inside prisons. Yet the gap in educational aspirations and participation has been largely driven by a lack of capacity due to limited funding.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative funded the College-in-Prison Reentry Initiative (CIP) to close this gap by expanding access to college education in prisons throughout New York State. This fact sheet unpacks the impact of participation in degree programs offered by seven colleges participating in CIP and reveal the effects that college in prison can have on in-facility behavior, recidivism, employment, and income after release.