Creating Prison-Based College Program That Continues After Release Presents Challenges, but Can Have Success
May 22, 2019
RAND researchers conducted an independent evaluation of the Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education Project. This report focuses on the North Carolina Pathways Program, for which researchers examined the implementation of the in-prison and community components, the experiences of Pathways students and staff, factors that facilitated or hindered their participation in the program, and lessons learned.
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Before 2013, incarcerated individuals in North Carolina could enroll in college correspondence courses, but there was no coordinated effort to provide a path toward a postsecondary degree or credential. Furthermore, there was no coordination around reentry. The Vera Institute of Justice's Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education Project (Pathways) was a multistate demonstration project in three states — Michigan, New Jersey, and North Carolina — intended to create a continuum of higher education and reentry support services that begin two years prior to an individual's release from prison and continue in the community for two years postrelease, with the goal of educational progression and degree attainment.
RAND and RTI International researchers conducted an independent evaluation of the North Carolina Pathways Program, examining the implementation of the in-prison and community components of the program, the experiences of Pathways students and staff, factors that facilitated or hindered their participation in the program, and lessons learned. The findings and recommendations will be of interest to other states, corrections officials, and educators interested in implementing postsecondary education programs for incarcerated adults.
Notably, North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) continues to fund components of Pathways after the demonstration project ended. Pathways affected how NCDPS approaches both higher education in prison and reentry planning. It has led to more coordination among prisons and probation and parole officers and community resources. Because of Pathways, education has become the fourth pillar of the department's reentry focus (along with housing, employment, and transportation).
The North Carolina Pathways Program's In-Prison Component
The North Carolina Pathways Program's Community and Reentry Component
Conclusions and Recommendations
Overview of the Pathways Demonstration Project
Consent Protocols and Focus Group Discussion Guide for Evaluation of the In-Prison Component of the Pathways Program
Consent Protocols and Focus Group Discussion Guide for Evaluation of the Community Component of the North Carolina Pathways Program
The research described in this report was prepared for the Laughing Gull Foundation and the Vera Institute of Justice and conducted by the Justice Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.
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