By Dana Simas, CDCR Public Information Officer
The Solano Community College District Governing Board approved last night a first-of-its-kind agreement with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to provide college credit courses to qualifying inmates at California State Prison-Solano.
The inmates will receive instruction from faculty at Solano Community College.
This is the first agreement between CDCR and a California community college since Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed Senate Bill 1391 last month.
SB 1391 allows California community colleges to receive full funding for course instruction offered on-site in state prisons and will expand the courses offered to inmates.
“It’s an investment not only in the individual offender, but in public safety as a whole,” said Millicent Tidwell, Director of CDCR’s Division of Rehabilitative Programs. “The vast majority of inmates will eventually return to our communities. We have an obligation to society to return them better prepared to deal with life’s challenges than when they came in to prison.”
Previously, college courses at most California prisons were only available to inmates through digital recordings and distance learning. SB 1391 will now fund college courses to be taught directly inside the prisons.
To supplement the distance-learning model, CDCR’s Voluntary Education Program has been providing instructors to offer tutoring, test-proctoring, guidance, and access to used textbooks in prison libraries to help inmate-students with their course work.
Providing inmates with education, both academic and career technical education, is key to giving inmates the best shot of finding employment and being successful in their transition back into society.
“The District is excited to teach courses to Solano County prison inmates,” said Dr. Jowel C. Laguerre, SCC Superintendent-President. “Education is the key to unlocking one’s future, therefore, it is Solano Community College’s responsibility to respond and deliver services to those who want to improve their future opportunities. Being a part of the solution to reduce recidivism in individuals currently serving time, but will one day rejoin society – is our business.”
While state and local authorities are taking measures to prevent people from committing crimes and being sent to prison in the first place, CDCR is committed to doing what it can to prevent inmates from re-offending and returning to prison after their release.
Inmates enrolled in college courses pay for the tuition and supplies through either a Board of Governor’s Fee Waiver or friends and family. Tuition is not paid through the CDCR budget.
As of July 2014, CDCR had 6,855 inmates enrolled in college courses and approximately 41,000 enrolled in Adult Basic Education courses who are working to obtain their high school diploma or general education degree.
Some colleges, such as Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga and Patten University in Oakland, have been sending volunteer instructors to provide classroom-based college courses and assistance to inmates for years. Before the passage of SB 1391, these colleges were not compensated for providing the instruction.
CDCR currently partners with over 27 nationally recognized, accredited college programs statewide. CDCR will continue to work with California Community Colleges to bring similar agreements to prisons statewide.