Tag Archives: reentry

Going to College with a Criminal Record: Who’s Afraid of Whom?

Approximately one third of homicides go unsolved in America. Almost sixty percent of reported rapes never result in prosecution (much less a conviction). And only slightly more than one in ten auto thefts are ever resolved. (All data from the FBI.) So maybe you should worry about what happens when your classmate is a former inmate, but probably not as much as you think. Or at least, only as much as you’re worrying about what happens when your classuniversity-105709_640mate has committed a crime for which s/he was never arrested or convicted — because for every person who is prosecuted, many others are never caught. In other words: not much.

Hand-wringing aside, our policies are starting to catch up with the facts. Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced a proposal with a set of recommendations to minimize inquiries about conviction histories in the college application process in order to improve college access for those who have criminal records.

Many of our current policies are built on a false duality that divides the world neatly into good people and bad people: college students are good people and former inmates are bad people. Young people suspended from school through the operation of “zero tolerance” discipline practices are just kids caught up in the school-to-prison pipeline, but young people serving sentences in corrections facilities are criminals who need to learn a lesson. And this tidy set of categories helps us manage a reality that otherwise makes us very uncomfortable. Continue reading

Building a Prison-to-Promise Pipeline

This week is the inaugural  National Reentry Week, designated by the U.S. Department of Justice to draw attention to the challenges faced by people returning to their communities after incarceration. Several agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and local law enforcement agencies are hosting events and announcing programs.

library-922998_1280A 2013 federal study of individuals in state prisons (the largest group of incarcerated people) found that 94 percent of those adults who were nearing reentry identified education as a key need. For young people, the need is even deeper.

Here at Bellwether, I provide strategic advising support and policy guidance to school leaders across the country.  The number one concern that I hear from leaders of successful schools and programs is “what happens when they leave us?” And I’ve talked to kids in juvenile justice schools all across the country who tell me that they feel like their teachers and programs have engaged them in ways that they never thought possible. It leaves them wondering, “why can’t I have this on the outs?”  (When you’re inside the gates, “the outs” is shorthand for the life you left outside.) Continue reading