College & Community Fellowship: For Women Moving Beyond Limitation Through College Education

Our Mission

College & Community Fellowship (CCF) is a nonprofit dedicated to helping women with criminal convictions earn college degrees so that they, their families, and their communities can thrive. We advocate for equity and opportunity for the communities we serve.

CCF supports students until graduation day and beyond, providing academic support, career coaching, financial development, and much more. We approach systemic change through our national advocacy and technical assistance programs.

We offer:

Scholarship programs and other financial assistance

• Professional and college counseling

Technical Assistance 

• Social and support services

Senator Schatz Reintroduces Bill to Reverse Clinton-Era “Mistake”

Press Release
February 14, 2018

Today, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) reintroduced a criminal justice reform bill, which would restore higher educational opportunities to incarcerated individuals. The Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act of 2018 proposes the reversal of a Clinton-era “tough on crime” initiative which barred incarcerated individuals from receiving Pell Grants in 1994. In 2015, Pres. Bill Clinton stated that the 1994 bill was a mistake and that it “worsened the nation’s criminal justice system.”
 
In 2016, the Obama administration launched the Second Chance Pell Program which restored Pell Grant funding to a portion of incarcerated individuals. Under this pilot program, 67 schools across the country worked with more than 100 correctional facilities to enroll approximately 12,000 students in federal and state prisons. Each site boasts its own curriculum, with courses leading to a certificate or associate’s degree from a community college or a bachelor’s degree from a public or private four-year school.
 
Like previous Pell Grant funding, the $30 million invested in the pilot program has not taken away funds from other Pell Grant recipients. In fact, this portion comes to less than 1 percent of the $28 billion annual Pell spending. If passed, the REAL Act would officially restore Pell Grant eligibility to all incarcerated individuals, providing the funding universities need to reinstate educational programs within every facility.
 
Providing incarcerated individuals with access to higher education has several common-sense rewards, such as decreased reliance on public assistance, increased employment rates, elevated quality of life for children and communities, and a significant drop in recidivism. Children are at a higher risk of living in poverty if their parents are incarcerated; however, when parents participate in postsecondary education, there is an increased likelihood that their children will attend college.
 
 A 2012 report from the RAND Corporation found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to recidivate than those who did not. Furthermore, the researchers noted that for every dollar invested in correctional educational programming yielded a $4-$5 return from savings produced by reduced re-incarceration costs.
 
“If passed, the REAL Act would permanently reinstate Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students across the country, and provide fair access to an education for all incarcerated individuals,” said Vivian Nixon, Executive Director of College & Community Fellowship.  “Given the fact that 95 percent of those in prison will one day be released, it makes sense that we want returning citizens to be as equipped as possible for the often tumultuous, and stigmatized road of reentry.”
 
“When we give people in prison an opportunity to earn an education, our communities are safer, our taxpayers save money, and we can end the cycle of recidivism,” said Senator Schatz. “The REAL Act would restore a program we know already works and give people a real chance to rebuild their lives.”
 
“The importance of the REAL Act lies in the opportunities that it will open for formerly and currently incarcerated individuals, a population that faces enormous constraints and constant barriers to social mobility,” said Ivelisse Gilestra, Policy Assistant for CCF. “By providing access to education for people with criminal justice involvement we are reversing the socio-economic imbalance that keeps them stagnant in a system currently designed to exclude.”
 
For more information or to schedule an interview with CCF staff, please contact Blaire Perel at bperel@collegeandcommunity.org or 646-380-7783.
 
College & Community Fellowship (CCF) is a non-profit dedicated to helping women with criminal convictions earn college degrees so that they, their families, and their communities can thrive. CCF supports students until graduation day and beyond, providing academic support, career coaching, financial development, and much more. We approach systemic change through our national advocacy and technical assistance programs. 

###

 

The Justice Department Continues to Roll Back Progress 

Press Release

November 30, 2017

In a Supreme Court brief filed last month, the Justice Department openly stated that certain incarcerated individuals do not have the right to challenge their sentences in court, in cases where the length of their sentences are now longer than our current laws would allow. College & Community Fellowship (CCF), founded soon after the “tough on crime” mentality took hold of the country, urges policymakers to continue working on commonsense reform instead of reverting back to the antiquated laws that led to our current system of mass incarceration.

In a bold move, the Justice Department forcefully urged the Supreme Court to refuse to hear an appeal from Dan C. McCarthan, a man from Florida who argues he was sentenced to seven more years than the law allowed. If the department’s new position is adopted, people like McCarthan won’t be able to appeal their sentences. The policy would mean condemning incarcerated individuals to serve out unlawful sentences. CCF is extremely dismayed by the recent deterioration of the department’s criminal justice policy, and views this change in the context of the broader landscape of reform efforts that seek to reduce the far-reaching impacts of unjust laws.

“The appeals process is a fight for one’s life,” said Vivian Nixon, Executive Director of College & Community Fellowship. “You formulate the best argument that will result in a reduced or vacated sentence so that you can be released. This notion of ‘what is right’ isn’t taken into consideration.”

Relying on flawed logic, the Justice Department’s deficient argument has broader moral repercussions. One of its essential points states that McCarthan is ineligible for habeas relief because he ”filed his challenge too late under a federal law that places strict limits on habeas corpus petitions.” McCarthan filed his challenge in 2009, six years into his incarceration, immediately following the release of a Supreme Court decision that diminished the severity of his crime. The brief argues that McCarthan could have argued his crime was nonviolent in his previous appeals, despite the fact that it was several years before this reclassification, and that “the argument was contrary to then-prevailing circuit law.”

Through our policy work, CCF knows that if the department’s position were to be accepted by the Court, it would come at the cost of human dignity and commonsense policy. At its core, our court system is supposed to be built upon the idea of justice. Barring individuals from the opportunity to appeal their sentences after significant changes in the law have occurred isn’t just, and this policy appears malicious toward those who would appeal their sentences based on the laws the Justice Department itself is meant to uphold.

“Parsing language until you can bend the law to fit your agenda is not how the system was intended to function,” said Ivelisse Gilestra, Policy Assistant at CCF. “Our system should always seek fairness and anticipate all contingencies.”

With this brief, the Department of Justice is continuing its efforts to roll back Smart on Crime policies spearheaded by the Obama Administration, while dangerously skirting its boundaries in what could be perceived as an attempt to control the Supreme Court. College & Community Fellowship urges the public to pay close attention to these policy changes and, where possible, take action to ensure that our justice system upholds fair policies.

For more information or to schedule an interview with CCF staff, please contact Blaire Perel at bperel@collegeandcommunity.org or 646-380-7783.

College & Community Fellowship (CCF) is a non-profit dedicated to helping formerly incarcerated women earn their college degrees as a key strategy to successful reentry. CCF mentors students until graduation day, providing academic support, financial coaching, and other opportunities to build social capital. We approach systemic change through our national advocacy and technical assistance programs.

###