By JulianGlenn Padgett
Feather River College is educating one San Quentin prisoner with correspondence courses and is expanding its program in San Quentin and other California prisons.
“No one should be denied access to obtaining a college degree; a college degree holds a special meaning for the incarcerated,” said Joan Parkin, associate dean at Feather River College, a community college in Lassen County, Calif. Parkin said her mission is to educate prisoners no matter where they are.
The San Quentin student, Michael Holmes, said he attended multiple self-help groups, such as criminality awareness, substance abuse, anger and stress management. Holmes said the programs piqued his interest in learning about behavioral science, so he wrote numerous letters seeking sponsorship from Project Rebound, the Re-entry Council, Fresno Pacific University, Palo Verde College and the Prison Scholarship Foundation.
He was eventually referred to Coastline College, but he was unable to pay for textbooks and had no access to used copies.
“I had no means to pay for college or books,” Holmes said. “On top of that, I had been told California no longer provided grants for inmates” to take college courses.
Then, Holmes’ medical care providers suggested he write to Feather River College. The school accepted his application and is covering the costs for tuition and books.
“I’m humbled by this experience, because
the person whois the most locked
down can go through the program”
“They’re very attentive to me and they respond quickly when I have an issue,” Holmes said. “For me, Feather River is a godsend.”
Feather River’s Incarcerated Student Program was launched in 2006 at California Correctional Center, according to Parkin. Dawn Tibbits, the prison’s college program facilitator, established a system to verify the educational backgrounds of those men interested in furthering their education through Feather River. Tibbits also set up a program to distribute textbooks to all the participating students.
“We need more funding to bring Associate of Arts degrees to any inmate who wants one,” Parkin said. “I’ve seen a complete transformation” in men who complete the program in other prisons. Feather River currently educates 400 prisoners in California prisons.
Recently, when Parkin gave a lecture at Pelican Bay State Prison, one prisoner said he came to prison at age 16 and now, at 38, Feather River College gave him his first opportunity at an education.
“I just want to learn something,” the prisoner told Parkin.
“I’m humbled by this experience, because the person who is the most locked down can go through the program,” she added.
Anyone interested in taking classes through Feather River College should contact Tom Bolema in the San Quentin Education Department. He said Feather River is providing instructional materials for 30 San Quentin prisoners, including Death Row inmates.