In 1967, a former Soledad Prison inmate who served five years for armed robbery launched Project Rebound at San Francisco State, where he was a professor of sociology.
The program was revolutionary at the time and, nearly 50 years later, it continues to help currently and formerly incarcerated Californians earn their degrees at S.F. State.
Now, Project Rebound is expanding to Sacramento State and six other California State University (CSU) campuses. Funding comes from a one-year, $500,000 Renewing Communities grant provided by the Opportunity Institute. Sac State will receive approximately $71,000.
“It’s incredibly difficult to get from prison to college, and if previously incarcerated people get themselves successfully admitted to the university, they really want their degree and are ready for college,“ says Mary Maguire, chair of the Division of Criminal Justice and director of Sac State’s Project Rebound program.
Maguire anticipates that Sacramento State will accept 15 to 20 formerly incarcerated students into Project Rebound each semester.
Research shows that attending college drastically reduces the likelihood that an individual will return to prison. In 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, only 3 percent of Project Rebound students returned to prison, and most of the returns were for parole violations.
“Ninety-five percent of inmates will be released back to their communities,” Maguire says. “Education is the way to stop the revolving door. Education makes the community safer, because it’s an avenue to meaningful work, which gives people a purpose and something to lose.”
San Francisco State reports that over the past 10 years, 140 Project Rebound students have graduated, a 95 percent completion rate that exceeds that of its traditional students.
Conditions of parole require that former inmates remain in their county of conviction, so bringing Project Rebound to the CSU campuses in Bakersfield, Fresno, Fullerton, Pomona, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Sacramento will make the program accessible to 70 percent of Californians monitored by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Project Rebound provides students with mentoring, financial assistance, and other services. And if a prospective student isn’t immediately qualified to attend the CSU, Project Rebound will help with other options, including community college.
In addition to the Opportunity Institute, Project Rebound is supported by the California Endowment, the California Wellness Foundation, the Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation, the ECMC Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Rosenberg Foundation.