We know from data and personal experience that expanding college access and supports is a cost-effective recidivism reduction and public safety strategy that will foster the transformation of entire communities. In August, the RAND Corporation published a meta-analysis of 30 years of research on correctional education in the U.S., showing that inmates who participate in education programs are 43% less likely to recidivate than inmates who do not and post-release employment was 13% higher for those who had participated in education while incarcerated. Education opportunities and supports in criminal justice and reentry settings, often known as "reentry education," and postsecondary reentry education in particular is a powerful poverty reduction and justice reinvestment approach that addresses historic injustices within both the criminal justice and education systems. The New York Reentry Education Network (NYREN) is a network of community-based reentry service providers that partner with government agencies and academic institutions in New York City to center education in reentry and mobilize for systems change, including expanding college access to individuals involved in the criminal justice system.
College Pathways from Rikers Island, a 16-session college prep workshop at Rikers,is an outgrowth of NYREN. As a coalition of individuals in community-based organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions, NYREN collaborates and focuses public attention and resources on the intersection of education and criminal justice, to harness the power of education to transform the lives of individuals with criminal justice system involvement, improve public safety, and strengthen New York City families and communities. College Pathways was born when the 2013 cohort of NYC Education Pioneer Analyst Fellows connected with NYREN seeking to create an education-based project on Rikers (the NYC jail complex, where over 10,000 individuals are incarcerated daily). The Fellows partnered with the College Initiative (CI) and the Educational Services Unit of the NYC Department of Correction (both members of NYREN) to offer college prep in the city jails.
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(First published by The Huffington Post)