Cal State Northridge is hoping to turn the schools-to-prison pipeline on its head, and instead create a prison-to-school pipeline that provides formerly incarcerated students with the support they need to succeed.
CSUN this fall launched Project Rebound, an initiative designed to help guide the students on their academic journey and connect them with campus liaisons committed to their success. The students also will be connected with community organizations and services to help them meet their basic needs.
“We are trying to get people who are incarcerated to imagine themselves on a university campus and to work towards that, so, when they come out, they have something waiting for them,” said Chicana/o studies professor Martha Escobar, executive director of the initiative on the CSUN campus.
Project Rebound originated more than 50 years ago at San Francisco State University as a way to matriculate people into the university directly from the criminal justice system. In 2016, with the support of the Opportunity Institute and CSU Chancellor Timothy White, Project Rebound expanded beyond San Francisco State into a consortium that has grown to 14 CSU campus programs, including CSUN’s.
Since 2016, Project Rebound students system-wide have earned an overall grade point average of 3.0, have a zero-percent recidivism rate, and 87% of graduates have secured full-time employment or admission to postgraduate programs, according to CSU statistics.
CSUN’s Project Rebound this fall is providing support to nine students. Escobar said she expects that number to grow as word about the program spreads across the campus and in the community.
“One of our goals is to tackle the stigma associated with being formerly incarcerated,” she said. “There’s a taboo associated with admitting that you were, at one time, incarcerated. That’s a big hurdle, and it keeps a lot of people from reaching out for help. We are working to build a community where our formerly incarcerated students feel comfortable, while respecting the fact that some of them are not going to feel comfortable coming out as formerly incarcerated.”