ransitioning from prison to college can be a difficult and scary experience. The stigma of possessing a criminal record frequently magnifies the challenges that students face.
Creative writing major Gary Hallford, knows this firsthand. Prior to enrolling at SF State, the 54 year old spent over 11 years behind bars. He served a majority of his sentence at Folsom State Prison, but was also housed for a few years in San Quentin's reception center. Hallford said his criminal history has created many obstacles, including financial and housing troubles as well as hindering his ability to relate to other students.
Prior to enrolling at SF State, Gary Hallford spent over 11 years in prison. The 54-year-old creative writing major continues to find unique ways to deal the challenges posed by his criminal record.
Berkeley School of Law. While many students struggle to afford the high cost of college, those with criminal records must overcome larger hurdles. The Sentencing Project’s Poverty and Opportunity Profile found that individuals with criminal records are half as likely to be called back after an interview and if hired typically earn 30 to 40 percent less than their counterparts without criminal histories. Escaping the stigma is often impossible, according to the profile, which states these negative effects tend to follow individuals for the remainder of their lives.
ecuring stable housing is especially difficult for this segment of the population. Background checks often eliminate a majority of housing prospects and bar these individuals from receiving federal housing assistance, according to a 2013 report by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. The report found that these challenges among many others, make individuals in jail 7.5 to 11.3 times more likely to experience homelessness than the general population. Furthermore, incarceration and homelessness are believed to precipitate one another. According to the 2013 report, experiencing homelessness increases an individual’s chance of becoming incarcerated, and incarceration in turn increases the probability that an individual will end up homeless.
ducation offers current and formerly incarcerated individuals assistance in overcoming many of the challenges a criminal record poses. It not only offers them socio-economic mobility by increasing job prospects and earning potential, but also helps them foster beneficial connections with their communities. Together these factors help contribute to the role education plays in reducing the recidivism rate of the formerly incarcerated. California has one of the highest recidivism rates in the nation with nearly two-thirds of those released from prison returning after only a few years, the Sentencing Project’s profile states. However, a meta-analysis conducted in 2013 by the RAND Corporation found that prison inmates who participate in any form of education are 41 percent less likely to reoffend than inmates who do not. College programs had an even greater impact, according to the study, which found that engagement in these programs reduced inmates' recidivism rate by 51 percent.
F State's Project Rebound helps support formerly incarcerated individuals throughout their transition to student life. The program offers assistance with housing, meals, transportation, tutoring, as well as with the application and financial aid process, according to Jason Bell, the director of the program who spent most of his twenties behind
bars. Project Rebound serves as many as 150 students on campus each semester and helps thousands more via phone calls and correspondence, the collaborative report by Berkeley and Stanford states. With a 91 percent graduation rate, participants of the program graduate more frequently than the rest of SF State’s student body, whose graduation rate is closer to 50 percent. Participants of the program also experience an extremely low recidivism rate, which according a 2016 article by The Atlantic was only 3 percent as of 2010. Bell said that he is currently helping seven other California State Universities establish their own Project Rebounds modeled after the one at SF State, so that even more formerly incarcerated students can reap the benefits of the program.
Interview with Jason Bell, director of Project Rebound
Jason Bell shares his personal experience adjusting to life at SF State after spending most of his twenties in prison. He discusses the challenges that formerly incarcerated people face and how Project Rebound can help.