Of the 650,000 Californians who are incarcerated, on parole or on probation, fewer than 20,000 are enrolled in some form of higher education, a new report from the Campaign for College Opportunity suggests.
Through focus groups with formerly incarcerated people in California who attended a public university, the organization outlined several barriers that people returning from prison face when pursuing an education.
Parole and probation systems in the state do little to prioritize higher education, the authors suggested, and participants said their officers were unsupportive of educational goals. The report recommends the state alter probation and parole requirements so that enrolling in a full- or part-time college program is equivalent to securing a job to meet parole/probation requirements.
The report also identified housing as a barrier to education, with some participants reporting that they struggled to find housing that accepted them as a student and former felon. Whether students could live in campus housing while on parole was also unclear for some participants.
Participants also reported that they struggled to balance work and school. Colleges and universities they attended sometimes did not have targeted support services and career counselors were unable to properly advise students with criminal records on employment.
The report recommended colleges and universities train career counselors to advise formerly incarcerated students, try to start postsecondary education with students while they are still incarcerated, and designate liaisons to formerly incarcerated students.