The Vera Institute of Justice is pioneering an initiative to expand access to higher education for people in prison and those that have been recently released called the Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education Project. While many such projects toil in obscurity, Vera is positioned to raise greater awareness towards recognizing that we should encourage the education of all members of society.
The project is active in two states, New Jersey and North Carolina. The goals of the initiative include an increase in employability and earnings for formerly incarcerated people, reduce recidivism, and improve quality of life in communities impacted by crime and incarceration. The project hopes to demonstrate that there are cost-effective methods for providing access to postsecondary education to currently and formerly incarcerated individuals.
TTEF is encouraged by this initiative, funded by the Ford Foundation, the Sunshine Lady Foundation (started by Doris Buffet, the sister of Warren Buffet), the Open Society Institute (OSI), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That these foundations are funding this program signals that expanding educational opportunities to the currently and formerly incarcerated is getting mainstream support from highly-credible institutions.. We hope such recognition convinces others that these efforts make sense from various angles, including individual rehabilitation and community economic development.
For example, the Vera Institute notes that “the difference in median earnings between people with a high school diploma and those with an associate’s degree is $8,261. The difference jumped to $22,884 when researchers included those who had completed a bachelor’s degree.” Moreover, “postsecondary education has a significant impact on both the frequency and the quality of civic engagement and participation (e.g., voting and volunteering).”
We applaud these efforts and look forward to seeing the implementation of this project in New Jersey and North Carolina.