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Degrees in Hand – A Prison to Career Pathway Program

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $900,000)

Cal State Los Angeles (Cal State LA) proposes Prison to Careers Equity Pathway, a
scalable pilot Second Chance Community-Based Adult Reentry Program. The pilot will
expand positive impacts of the University’s successful Prison BA Graduation Initiative (with zero recidivism), delivered at California State Prison, Los Angeles County (LAC) since 2016.
The pilot will link formerly incarcerated college graduates with regional employers and
community organizations working toward achieving an equitable workforce. The cost to students
is zero.

This Category 2 Improving Employment Services and Connections pilot extends the
existing degree program’s benefits by creating a much-needed nexus of three proven antirecidivism
protections: (2) University degree attainment, (2) Transition support services, and (3)
Stable employment. Research indicates that unemployment poses the greatest risk of recidivism;
while higher degree attainment is associated with lower recidivism rates. However, justice involved
individuals find their reentry job searches are complicated by multiple dimensions of
labor market discrimination.

This pilot will improve employment rates for program participants by connecting them
with employers and community partners committed to giving formerly incarcerated persons an
equitable shot at success in the communities they call home. This model is organized around five
target areas shown by Harvard and others to have a positive effect on post-release success: (1)
Professional and self-development; (2) Wellbeing; (3) Career Planning; (4) Career training and
work experience; and (5) Follow-on support services. The program is anchored in a partnership
of employers, community organizations, LAC, and Cal State LA. This network will identify
employer needs, link applicants to employers, provide professional and personal development
during incarceration, individualized career planning, skills training, paid and unpaid internships,
and follow-on mentoring in support of formerly incarcerated students’ access to long-term,
meaningful careers and upward mobility.

Research demonstrates that an anti-recidivism community partnership approach is vital to
post-release employment success because community organizations know the local dynamic
workforce intimately, contributing to greater reentry success than is achieved by involving
governmental institutions alone. This program will serve students in the Prison BA Graduation
Initiative, who are released to the Northeast Los Angeles (90032 Zip Code) area. That
community, too, will benefit when equitable pathways lead to stable employment and interrupt
the cycle of racial discrimination, unemployment, poverty, and crime. Ongoing program
evaluation will consider program outcomes, including employment and wage data, recidivism
rates, and will implement data-driven improvements.

Date Created: September 25, 2023