Laying the Groundwork

How States Can Improve Access to Continued Education for People in the Criminal Justice System

Continued education is proven to have a notable impact on reducing recidivism. Yet, the vast majority of states have major barriers to postsecondary education opportunities for people during incarceration and upon release. This report provides a comprehensive, state-by-state analysis of postsecondary education policy and practices.

February 2020 | The Council of State Governments Justice Center

Continued education is proven to have a notable impact on reducing recidivism. Yet, the vast majority of states have major barriers to postsecondary education opportunities for people during incarceration and upon release.

Laying the Groundwork: How States Can Improve Access to Continued Education for People in the Criminal Justice System provides a comprehensive, state-by-state analysis of postsecondary education policy and practices. The report identifies four fundamental “building blocks” that states should have in place to ensure that high-quality postsecondary education is readily accessible to currently and formerly incarcerated people.

United States AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IN IL IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MO MS MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WV WI WY

Funding

(17 States)

Offerings

(17 States)

Lack of Restrictions

(10 States)

Incentives & Supports

(12 States)

Laying the Groundwork was developed by The Council of State Governments Justice Center, with support from Lumina Foundation.

Key Findings

No state currently has all four of the fundamental building blocks in place, and only half of states have any one of the building blocks.

  • Fewer than one in three states are using key federal and state funding streams to support postsecondary education for people while incarcerated and after release.
  • Less than half of states give incarcerated people access to a full range of postsecondary education programs aligned with local labor market trends and employer needs.
  • More than three-quarters of states impose statutory and/or administrative restrictions that limit access to postsecondary education for individuals who are currently and formerly incarcerated.
  • Only one-quarter of states offer incentives and tangible supports to promote postsecondary participation.
Full Report

Laying the Groundwork (PDF) presents detailed findings from a 50-state study to help state and local leaders determine whether their state is making sufficient efforts to improve educational and employment outcomes for incarcerated people by providing postsecondary education opportunities. A checklist of best practices related to each fundamental building block is included to guide needed reforms.

State Fact Sheets
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Authors


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Josh Weber
Deputy Division Director, Corrections and Reentry
Josh Weber directs the CSG Justice Center's Juvenile Justice program, which focuses on helping states use effective methods to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for youth in contact with the juvenile justice system. Previously, Josh spent 10 years working on
...
building the capacity of programs and systems that serve vulnerable youth in the juvenile justice, youth development, workforce development, and child welfare systems. Josh managed research programs for the Youth Development and Research Fund in Maryland and the Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. In addition, Josh led the development and implementation of NYC Administration for Children’s Services' alternative to placement and reentry program for juveniles using evidence-based practices. He also directed the District of Columbia’s Justice Grants Administration, which managed all federal juvenile and criminal justice grants for the District. Josh received his BA in psychology from Duke University and his MA in public administration from Princeton University.
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Leah Bacon
Policy Associate, Corrections and Reentry
Leah Bacon is a policy associate for CSG Justice Center’s Access to Post-Secondary Education Project, where she analyzes admission opportunities available for people who are formerly incarcerated to state colleges and universities in all 50 states. Outside of her work
...
at the CSG Justice Center, Leah does external research for authors and academics on conflict and memory, specifically looking at writing by youth during times of conflict as well as Rwanda’s conflict-resolution practices. She has also conducted research on Rwanda’s criminal justice system as a model for dismantling mass incarceration in the U.S. She earned a BA in communication and sociology at Boston College and is currently pursuing a MA in strategic communication and media at The George Washington University.
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Gina Lee
Legal Fellow, Corrections and Reentry
Gina provides legal support to the CSG Justice Center’s work related to criminal records. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center, Gina served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Krystal Quinn Alves in Maryland. As a law clerk,
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she conducted research concerning post-conviction relief and reviews of the lower court decisions. She also worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she conducted research on employment law. She received a BA in East Asian studies from Johns Hopkins University, and a JD from the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University.
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