Efforts to create a prison-based program where people who are incarcerated can take college classes and work toward a degree upon release can be successful, but many obstacles challenge the success of such efforts. This new study from the RAND Corporation examines the implementation of a program in North Carolina, the experiences of its students and staff, factors that facilitated or hindered their participation in the program, and lessons learned.
The study evaluates the Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education program established in North Carolina state prisons in 2013 as part of a multistate demonstration project supported by several foundations. To help incarcerated individuals obtain a postsecondary education degree or credential, prisons offered them college classes during the final two years of their incarceration, with support continuing for another two years following release to help them achieve their degree or certificate goal.
Researchers from RAND and RTI International evaluated the program’s adoption and success rate, interviewing more than 70 stakeholders, program staff and participants to gather input. The findings and recommendations will be of interest to other states, corrections officials, and educators interested in implementing postsecondary education programs for incarcerated adults.