Project Rebound is assisting ex-prisoners to stay and thrive in college once they parole back into the larger community.
Working in conjunction with California State University (CSU), the program operates at nine of the system’s 14 campuses.
“According to a RAND analysis, every $1 invested in such [inmate] education generates at least $4 in economic return,” reports Fast Company.
“The state typically spends $71,000 a year to house an inmate. It costs about $5,000 total to help put one [incarcerated] student through community college”, reports Fast Company.
“That’s the beauty of Project Rebound: We actually walk people out of being an incarcerated student to being a CSU student,” says Romarilyn Ralston, project coordinator at Cal State Fullerton, according to an article in Capital and Main.
When students are released from jail or prison, Project Rebound gives them “access to financial aid, money for books and food, counseling, health care, academic and career advice, tutoring, legal assistance, and a community of formerly incarcerated people who have made it out of the same traumatic experience,” said the article.
“Twelve Fullerton students are now enrolled in Project Rebound, ranging in age from 23 to 54. Some have served just a few months in a county jail, and others have served a couple of decades in a state prison,” reported Capital and Main.
The program was founded in 1967 by a man who himself had been incarcerated. At that time, San Francisco State was Project Rebound’s only site of operation.
Over the years, however, as criminal justice philosophy has gradually shifted from “corrections” to “rehabilitation,” Project Rebound has successfully expanded its operations. After being released from lockup, a student can now find the program at northern, southern and central California campus locations throughout the state.
Research by the RAND Institute has found that incarcerated people who participate in educational programs are 43 times less likely to recidivate within the next three years. “This study demonstrates that education programs can help adults get back on their feet upon release from prison,” Rand reported.
Capital and Main also cited internal data which show that as result of Project Rebound’s encouragement and support of continued education after incarceration, only 3 percent of the project’s students returned to prison within the research period.
Ralston personally attests to the power of higher education, especially for ex-convicts. Ralston, herself, spent 23 years in prison before she was paroled in 2011. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Pitzer College in Claremont and a master’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
Ralston believes helping other former inmates get their education is what saved her life. “I believe that change is possible. Redemption, reconciliation, forgiveness, rehabilitation. All those things happen,” said Ralston.