Calipatria State Prison
In his effort to remake California’s prisons, Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a moratorium on executions and stated intentions to transform San Quentin State Prison into a rehabilitation center. Meanwhile, the California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections is shutting down a handful of prisons while downsizing others.

But for more than 1,500 California prisoners who could have their college education disrupted by these closures, their futures remain uncertain. 

As detailed by CalMatters’ community college reporter Adam Echelman, prisoners enrolled in college benefit beyond just a degree — they can chip off time from their sentences. Prison education also reduces recidivism rates.

Prisoners affected by closures may get transferred to a new prison but the courses and credits available may not line up with the classes they were taking, leaving some students a few credits shy of a degree. They may then take an incomplete or drop out.

In a statement to CalMatters, the corrections department said it’s committed to preventing “academic disruption,” and cites its Rising Scholars Network initiative. But the department also said that it’s the responsibility of the community colleges to make sure students’ credits transfer, and the state can help “if needed.” 

Community colleges argue that there’s no coordinated system among colleges to communicate about where students transfer, and because of privacy laws, colleges need a student’s written consent before they can communicate with one another.

The president of Palo Verde College, says transfers will have a terrible impact on students. The college expects to lose about 520 students, or 10% of its student body, when a nearby prison closes in 2025.

  • Don Wallace: “Even among people that are not incarcerated, when they have to change from one college to another or they move from a community college to a four-year university, those are points where people quit.”

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