By Lupe Sanchez, Parole Agent II

Young parolees in Regions III and IV have a chance to participate in the Reintegration Academy, a 10-week program with the aim of steering the parolees toward obtaining a college degree.

Parole agents screened more than 500 cases as they selected the 28 parolees, from 18 to 25 years old, to participate in the second academy earlier this year. The parolees came from different classifications and backgrounds – from those who spent time at a fire camp to those who were in Level IV yards.

The academy, conducted on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona, immerses the parolees in academic, life-skills and personal-development modules. Toward the end of the 10 weeks, the parolees are enrolled in Mount San Antonio Junior College with the goal of later transferring to a four-year institution to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

The program, the only one of its kind in the nation, is funded by a grant from the Transcendence Children and Family Services Foundation serving the Pomona Valley/San Gabriel Valley areas of Southern California.  
The idea of the academy was developed by Renford Reese, a professor at Cal Poly Pomona.  Reese has been involved with several projects in CDCR institutions, but had never worked with the Division of Adult Parole (DAPO).

Reese suggested the idea of a reintegration academy to the author during a Police and Corrections Team meeting in Pomona in 2007.

“What do you think would happen if you took parolees and dropped them into an academic environment and gave them all the support they needed to succeed?  Would they quit or would they make something of themselves?” he asked.

Over the next two years he worked on the project, finally obtaining funding, and in early 2009 said he was ready to go.

DAPO officials gave the project a green light, and the screening began. The final 50 parolees were interviewed to determine which 25 would be selected for the first academy. Of those 25 parolees, 22 graduated from the academy and continued their education or obtained stable employment.

In the second academy, all 28 parolees graduated.