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

Education, Kinship, Leadership. 
At College & Community Fellowship (CCF) we help formerly incarcerated women earn their college degrees. We are an organization of educators, social workers, policy changers, and former students working together to help our students succeed in college, career, family, and life.

Our Mission is to eliminate individual and structural barriers to higher education, economic security, long term stability, and civic participation for women who have criminal convictions (including those currently and formerly incarcerated) and their families.

We offer:

Scholarship programs and other financial assistance

• Professional and college counseling

Mentorships and a network of like-minded women

• Social and support services

 

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.

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Kim’s Story

After Kim’s release from Albion Correctional Facility in 2002, Kim worked as a Nurse’s Aide to support herself. One day, a counselor asked Kim “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “A nurse!” Kim replied without hesitation. This conversation would change Kim’s life.

After meeting with the counselor, Kim remembered hearing about an organization that would help her finish college: College and Community Fellowship (CCF). Excited and motivated, Kim called CCF to schedule an appointment—even though she had little support from her friends and family, who discouraged her by insisting that her prison record would prevent her from becoming a nurse.

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