Cal State LA Gets Grant to Create Jobs Program for Ex-Jailed College Grads

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Cal State Los Angeles received a $900,000 grant from the Department of Justice to establish an employment program to help formerly incarcerated college graduates find work, the university announced Friday.

The grant will help create a Prison to Careers Equity Pathway program at the school that will link the graduates with regional employers and community organizations, according to the university.

"This grant is another indication of Cal State LA's commitment to the transformational impact of education," Taffany Lim, executive director of the Center for Engagement, Service and the Public Good, said in a statement. "When incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students earn college degrees, we are investing in the community's social mobility and breaking down the cycle of intergenerational incarceration."

The award is part of $4.4 billion in grants from the Department of Justice that will help build community capacity to curb violence, serve victims and youth, and achieve fair outcomes through evidence-based criminal and juvenile justice strategies, according to the university.

The pilot program will build on the university's Prison B.A. Graduation Initiative offered at the California State Prison in Lancaster. It's the first in-person bachelor's degree completion program for incarcerated students in California, according to the university.

The Prison B.A. Graduation Initiative was started in 2016 with support from President Barack Obama's Second Chance Pell federal pilot program, the university said. Through the program, the students earn a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, with a focus on organizational communication.

While getting a higher degree is associated with lower recidivism rates, officials said that research shows that unemployment poses the greatest risk of recidivism.

"What we have learned from our incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students is that a bachelor's degree alone is not enough," Lim added. "Even if one of our Cal State LA alumni is released from prison with a bachelor's degree summa cum laude, it is very difficult to pursue a meaningful career and obtain a job where they can utilize both their lived and academic experience."

Through funding, university officials said the Prison to Careers Equity Pathway program will provide students with professional development, training, coaching, career planning, and mentorship while they are inside and outside of prison.

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