Supporting the successful reintegration of individuals who have been incarcerated into society is crucial. When they reenter society, they face various challenges, including employment, housing, stigma, discrimination, family and community reconnection, legal and financial obligations, and limited education and vocational training access.
To address these challenges, comprehensive support systems and reentry programs are necessary. These programs should focus on providing employment assistance, housing support, educational opportunities, access to healthcare, and community integration.
In California, the Rising Scholars Network consists of community colleges that are part of the California Community Colleges system. These colleges have programs specifically designed to support incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students. The Rising Scholars Network is committed to offering opportunities and promoting academic success for these students.
Originally known as Corrections to College California, the Rising Scholars Network emerged from an initiative aimed at increasing access to higher education for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. Its mission is to enhance educational achievement and expand opportunities for those with experience in the criminal justice system.
Colleges within the Rising Scholars Network adhere to the following principles when serving formerly incarcerated students on campus:
- Build a student-centered support program by seeking student feedback to identify needs and priorities.
- Hire qualified staff, including individuals who have personal or family experience with the criminal justice system whenever possible.
- Advocate for campus diversity, equity, and inclusion by hiring faculty and staff with lived criminal justice experience.
- Identify faculty and staff members who can advocate for the program and its students in various campus committees and offices, including the Academic Senate.
- Allocate a designated and sufficient space on campus that ensures privacy and protects students’ identities if they choose not to disclose their status.
- Collect data on the number of students served and the services provided. Establish trusting relationships with students to create an environment where they feel comfortable disclosing their status while respecting the wishes of those who prefer not to disclose.
- Align program goals with the existing goals of the college and district.
By implementing these principles, colleges in the Rising Scholars Network strive to create a supportive and inclusive environment that facilitates formerly incarcerated students’ academic and personal success.
To find colleges providing the Rising Scholars Program see the California Community College Directory page: Program Directory – Rising Scholars Network