Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $900,000)
Earning a college degree is one of the most effective means of reducing poverty and recidivism for people impacted by the prison system, with a ripple effect on families and communities. The state of Georgia has one of the highest per capita rates of imprisonment, but opportunities for people to enroll in college-in-prison programming remain few. The last decade has seen growth in postsecondary programming for incarcerated people in Georgia, and a handful of Georgia universities and colleges now offer credit-bearing classes inside prisons that lead to degrees. The Georgia Coalition for Higher Education in Prison (GACHEP) formed to expand high-quality higher education in Georgia state prisons and to provide support to people who pursue higher education after release. Under this proposal, GACHEP-affiliated higher education in prison programs will partner with the Georgia Departments of Corrections (GDC) and Community Services (DCS) to expand pathways from pre-college to matriculation and degree completion for people transitioning out of Georgia state prisons. Over three years, GACHEP will coordinate with partner programs at Georgia State University, Life University, and Common Good Atlanta to expand college preparatory programming at Georgia correctional facilities, and GACHEP will implement a support and referral system for students who enroll in college and complete degrees post release. Under the proposed project, GDC will refer incarcerated students who are within thirty-six months of release, and GACHEP college and university partners will enroll students in transitional studies and enrichment classes with ACCUPLACER pre- and post-testing. Partner programs and GACHEP will provide guidance to students on applying to Georgia schools and obtaining financial aid. After students are released, GACHEP will conduct an educational needs assessment and will refer students to trusted points of contact at colleges and universities to support application, enrollment, and advising. GACHEP will additionally vet and make referrals to providers of housing, substance abuse and mental health counseling, employment, and other wraparound services in collaboration with DCS. The proposed activities will create a durable infrastructure of collaboration between Georgia colleges and universities, GDC, DCS, and service providers. It will additionally provide a foundation for higher education in prison in Georgia to grow in ways that uphold standards of equity and excellence maintained by GACHEP programs. The project will benefit a vulnerable population of Georgians who face disproportionate, systemic barriers to access to higher education as well as their families and communities.