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Equity and Transformation: A Bachelor’s Degree for Incarcerated Students at the California Institute For Women

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $900,000)

In Cal State LA’s six-year history offering a face-to-face bachelor’s degree at California State Prison, Los Angeles County (LAC), 12 students’ sentences have been commuted, largely because of their involvement in our program. Unfortunately, no woman in this state has had access to the benefits an onsite bachelor’s degree offers. Our Degrees of Hope program addresses this inequity by expanding our proven prison education model to the California Institute for Women (CIW). It will be California’s first baccalaureate degree program for incarcerated women. We expect CIW to mirror the LAC 0% recidivism rate because our model directly addresses key reoffending risks for women parolees: (1) Low educational attainment (2) Homelessness, (3) Economic marginalization, and (4) Lack of positive relationships.

Primary Activities: (1) Formalize agreements with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), CIW, and Chaffey College, to offer the degree at CIW. (2) Teach face-to-face courses. (3) Provide academic advising and support to ensure successful degree completion. (4) Provide transitional support for students who are released and completing degrees at Cal State LA.  

Products: Develop a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Liberal Studies program and create a Faculty Training program to support teaching in a carceral environment.


Expand our prison-to-university, associate-to-baccalaureate pathway.
Admit students to B.A. Liberal Studies program at CIW.
Develop an equity-minded student-success infrastructure.
Institute a faculty training and development program for prison education.
Establish an accountability and assessment program for continuous improvement.

Service Area: Riverside County, where CIW is located; and Los Angeles County, where Cal State LA is located and where paroled students complete their degrees.

Benefits: Chaffey College graduates will transfer to the Cal State LA program to earn a bachelor’s degree onsite at CIW. We expect paroled CIW students who continue their degree on the Cal State LA campus will have the same 0% recidivism rate as our LAC students. Breaking the incarceration cycle has numerous benefits to students, to their families and communities, and to the state.

DOJ priorities: (1) Civil Rights—We will ensure equal access to education and will admit applicants based on academic standards only. Academic quality in the prison-located degree program will meet on-campus standards.

(2) Protecting the Public from Crime—While nationally there is a 43% lower chance of recidivism for incarcerated individuals who take college courses (Davis et al, 2013), our program has 0% recidivism at three years after release.

Date Created: December 7, 2021