Education Reforms for Prisoners in California

The college education system in California prisons is getting rehabilitated through Senate Bill 416. Prisoners’ education in the state is provided by California Community Colleges that offer different courses to inmates. The California carceral system has more than 200,000 inmates, and most will rejoin their communities after completing their prison sentence.   

However, prisoners are underrepresented in the educational system and do not enjoy the same level of education as the general population enrolled in the community college. Prior to 2014, prisoners that enrolled in California Community Colleges were not offered face-to-face tutoring, unlike the other students. The support programs available to them were also few.

Senate Bill 1391 passed in 2014 and improved the condition of the prison education system. Currently, many prisoners receive physical lectures at the incarceration facilities, and more community colleges offer support programs for prisoners.

Reforming the education system for prisoners is crucial because it reduces recidivism, and prisoners with postsecondary education are more likely to secure legal employment upon release. The reentry process for prisoners in their community will be better if they could get good employment.

The community colleges also serve formerly incarcerated individuals enrolled in an academic program.

Through the new legislation, the office of the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges shall introduce the Rising Scholars Network program. The program aims to provide funding to 50 community colleges for better education for prisoners. Interested community college districts can apply for the program. The new legislation also requires that community colleges make their academic programs available to prisoners with a high school diploma or a similar degree.  

The Rising Scholars Network program will provide equitable means to prisoners to facilitate their admission, retention, and graduation as students at community colleges. 

Supports and benefits expected to be derived from the funding of the program include:

  • Provisions of academic counseling and physical tutoring to incarcerated students.
  • Formerly incarcerated students can get peer mentorship, career counseling, and easy access and assistance with campus resources.
  • Financial aid is available to both incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students. 
  • Incarcerated students get academic support and resources to ease their transition if they continue the program upon release from prison. 

The new law addresses the academic needs of prisoners and non-academic needs that can affect them. It is beneficial to prisoners and California communities because it keeps formerly incinerated individuals out of the prison system and reduces the crime rate. Prisoners also have a better chance of successfully rejoining and contributing to their communities.