Society has an interest in the positive and productive rehabilitation of former inmates. An important part of that reintegration hinges on their ability to acquire an education after being released. The Vera Institute of Justice’s Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education Project (also known as “Pathways”) offers higher education and reentry support services that start two years prior to an individual’s release from prison and continues two years after the return to society.
An evaluation of North Carolina’s Pathways Program by RAND and RTI International researchers highlighted several findings:
- Recipients felt that the program would be more beneficial if it were longer than four years.
- Program funding needs to be consistent across communities. The changes in funding levels led to confusion for administrators and recipients.
- Students need other support to stay in their educational programs, including housing, employment and transportation. Additionally, the students need mentors who can help them navigate the application and financial aid processes.
RAND and RTI International give several recommendations as to how Pathways can be improved. The academic structure of the program should be changed to allot more time to the in-prison component of the program so that students have a chance to build more credits and gain certifications; the program should allow released students to initially attend college on a part-time basis so that they have more time to acclimate to their new life changes. Other recommendations include establishing long-term funding, investing in various reentry programs, and hiring full-time support workers. These changes should ensure that former inmates are able to access education that will strengthen their labor market participation and decrease their recidivism.