Examines California’s strategy to reduce recidivism by aligning education and training programs through coordination in the justice, education, and workforce systems; and provides recommendations to strengthen state-level efforts that prioritize prevention and rehabilitation while also providing cost-savings to the correctional system.

This brief first presents the impetus for California’s investments to reduce recidivism, followed by an examination of the state’s strategies in the areas of career and technical education, postsecondary education, and federal support. It also includes an analysis of measurable successes (outcomes), ongoing improvements, and finally, recommendations for actions at different levels of government.

“Research has shown…that access to correctional education and training can significantly improve the outcomes of those returning to society. These positive outcomes are leading to increased federal and state momentum to improve postsecondary access for prisoners and lifting this issue higher on reform agendas. Nonetheless, the education and training needs of prisoners are far more complex than what can be met by traditional postsecondary education…and linking those needs to training that articulates to post-release opportunities is essential for successful reentry. Building on the theme of continuity from incarceration to reentry, [this is the first in a series of]…briefs [that] highlight the continuous improvement stories of states that are moving toward this type of alignment. This brief…focus[es] on California” (p.1).

“[U]nsustainable practices in California’s prisons culminated with a 2011 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court ordering [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] CDCR to reduce its prison population by more than 40,000 inmates over the next two years. This decision spurred the state to decrease its prison population by making major investments to reduce recidivism…” (p.1).  “With an understanding of the relationship between correctional education and reduced recidivism,…[the state created a blueprint in 2012 with these goals:]

· Place at least 70 percent of the department’s target population in programs consistent with their academic and rehabilitative needs;

· Establish reentry hubs to concentrate program resources and better prepare inmates as they get closer to being released; and

· Add 159 academic teachers and 98 vocational instructors over a 2-year period” (p.2).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“The 2012 blueprint urged the state to address at least one need prior to release for 70 percent of the targeted population. CDCR administrators have made progress through education and training toward this goal and others….By 2016, 60 percent of the targeted population was being served…and the Office of Correctional Education…currently serves over 50,000 state inmates” (p.3). “Building on the momentum of expanded postsecondary access spurred by Senate Bill 1391, California also became a host state to five Second Chance Pell Pilot sites, a 2016 initiative rolled out under the U.S. Department of Education” (p.3). Measurable successes include: “34 out of 35 facilities offer college courses provided by 17 different state community colleges. Prior to Senate Bill 1391, nearly 7,000 students were enrolled in mostly distance learning college courses in 2014. Additionally, face-to-face instruction has increased to 57 percent” (p.5). Recommendations to uplift correctional education at the state level include: • “Because the overwhelming majority of corrections spending comes from their budgets, states…should maintain support for correctional education and challenge themselves to be efficient with resources, while investing in and scaling best practices. One good example: when state financial aid was cut for inmates in Indiana…the state shifted its focus from traditional postsecondary education and toward more vocational and certification programs” (p.8). • “States should publish clear and specific correctional education budgets—including information on how much funding is dedicated to correctional education and which types of programs are offered—to help policymakers, other decision makers, and advocates monitor…their approaches” (p.8). • “States should collaborate across education, workforce, and criminal justice silos to ensure the effective access, delivery, and continuity of education and training during and after incarceration” (p.8). • “States should make sure their financial aid is equitable and accessible, and not operating under punitive policy structures” (p.8). • “Experts have identified more than 40,000 collateral consequences at the state and federal level that a criminal conviction can have on employment and other opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals…. Where and how people can legally and safely contribute to the economy and their own wellbeing should not be limited by debts already paid to society” (p.8). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)