CCF Pressroom

New Senate Legislation Would Increase Access To College For Formerly Incarcerated People

For Immediate Release: September 12, 2018
Contact: Melanie Steinhardt, (646) 380-7775

New York, NY – Today, Senator Brian Schatz’s (D-HI) office introduced legislation allowing the Secretary of Education to issue guidance recommending the removal of criminal history screenings on college applications.  The Beyond the Box for Higher Education Act amends the Higher Education Act of 1965 and comes on the heels of the Common Application “banning the box” in August 2018.
Beyond questions on applications regarding previous criminal justice involvement, many schools employ practices that have a “chilling effect” on applicants, like requesting to see legally sealed rap sheets or requiring a letter of recommendation from prison officials before making admissions decisions. And because the criminal justice system disproportionately targets low-income people of color, communities of color are most affected by criminal history screenings on college applications. While higher education institutions typically cite campus safety as the reason for asking the question, a Center for Community Alternatives study showed that there is no correlation between criminal history screenings and campus safety: in fact, most crimes on campuses are first-time offenses. Furthermore, the data that colleges collect are not used in ways that significantly improve campus safety. Less than half of the schools that collect and use criminal justice information have written policies in place regarding what to do with the information, and only 40 percent train staff on how to interpret such information.
The Beyond the Box in Higher Education Act would require the Department of Education to create guidance addressing these oversights in data collection and utilization. The recommendations and guidance would 1) determine whether criminal and juvenile justice questions are necessary in the initial application for admissions process; 2) develop a process to determine in what situations criminal or juvenile justice information can be requested of students for non-admissions purposes, and provide a process for applicants and training for staff on the use of such information; and 3) offer recommendations for colleges and universities that decide to keep criminal and juvenile justice questions. With this guidance in place, colleges could more meaningfully address concerns related to campus safety.

Statement from Vivian Nixon, Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship:
“This bill closes a gap left by the Common Application’s removal of the question of prior justice involvement. Currently, higher education institutions do not rely on evidence-based practices when collecting data on prior justice involvement. This makes data collection a tool of intimidation that upholds stigma and does not address real questions of campus safety. Communities of color are disproportionately affected by our criminal justice system. Educational institutions should not magnify the barriers this system puts in place by denying the transformational opportunity education offers. Education is essential to success and we applaud Senator Schatz for introducing this common-sense legislation. CCF’s organizing work led to the State University of New York moving the question off its application; soon after, the Common Application dropped the box as well. This bill maintains the momentum of the movement to make college accessible to all.”

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.


Common Application Removes Question About Criminal Justice History

College & Community Fellowship
For Immediate Release: August 9, 2018
Contact: Lori Rodriguez,, or (646) 380-7771

New York, NY – On Tuesday, in an unexpected yet laudable move, the Common Application dropped the question of criminal justice involvement from its application. Used by more than 700 colleges and universities around the world, the Common App is the country’s most widely used college application. This move comes after a more than 10-year campaign to “Ban the Box” led by a coalition of community activists and organizations, and elected officials. The Common Application’s decision to ban the box will have tremendously positive effects for college applicants with justice histories, and for colleges that benefit from those students’ presence.

The criminal history question is not asked in ways that meaningfully improve campus safety, and frequently serves only to deter the justice-involved from seeking higher education upon release. A study conducted by the EIO (Education from the Inside Out) Coalition found that for every student rejected by SUNY admissions committees because of a felony conviction, 15 did not complete their applications due to the unwelcoming experience of facing the checkbox. Banning the box is a good first step, but the institutions that still ask the question have more work to do: most institutions have no set procedure for following up with applicants, resulting in arbitrary admissions practices like requesting access to legally sealed rap sheets and other unpredictable, ineffective criteria. A Center for Community Alternatives study found that less than half of the schools that collect and use criminal justice information have written policies in place, and only 40 percent train staff on how to interpret such information. We hope that this decision by the College Board signals a broad move by colleges to using evidence-based practices for dealing with issues of campus safety.

Statement from Vivian Nixon, formerly incarcerated receiver of college reentry services, Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship:
“Upon my release from the criminal justice system, I found myself forced to constantly explain my mistakes as I faced questions about my criminal history on job, housing, and even college admissions applications. These checkboxes asking me to self-disclose weren’t just an annoyance – they threatened to derail my success and keep me from being the engaged citizen I longed to be. Education is a human right and certain communities in our society do not have access to the same quality of education that I believe every American deserves. We congratulate the College Board for finally implementing Obama-era guidance from the Department of Education and banning the box, and look forward to a future where justice and safety are evidence-based, rather than stigma-driven.”


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.

FIRST STEPS Act lays the first steps for an expanded prison system

For Immediate Release: May 24, 2018

Contact: Lori Rodriguez,, or (646) 380-7771


New York, NY – Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the FIRST STEP Act by an overwhelming majority. College & Community Fellowship (CCF) firmly opposes the bill and urges the Senate to review and reject this bill. Though the bill attempts to make reforms to federal prisons, by and large, this bill stands to grow the for-profit prison system.  As JLUSA puts it, this prison system harms people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds and economic classes, and disproportionately harms marginalized people, including black and brown people, queer and trans people, and immigrants. Furthermore, as JLUSA points out, the FIRST STEP Act sets up the potential for long-term damage through its provisions which allow prison wardens to enter into partnerships with private entities, its calls for electronic monitoring as the only home release condition, and its earned credit provisions, all of which set the stage for the expansion of the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. Perhaps most egregiously, the Act requires that all persons incarcerated in federal correctional facilities must be housed no more than 500 miles from their homes; while on the surface this provision sounds like an ideal condition that would help family members visit their loved ones, in actuality the provision is impossible without substantial investment in constructing new federal prisons.


Though the bill includes provisions for evidence-based recidivism reduction programs, the bill’s $250 million allocation over five years is insufficient to successfully fund the programs, and reveals a lack of consultation and input from service providers and the communities they serve. It would serve the nation better to focus on sentencing reform that reduces the prison population on the front end, rather than push forward legislation with a net outcome of expanding the federal prison system through new facilities and surveillance in the community.


Statement from Rev. Vivian D. Nixon, Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship, formerly incarcerated beneficiary of reentry programs:


“As we move into a more progressive bipartisan era of criminal justice policy, we must not relegate those who have been affected by criminal punishment to the economic or policy shaping margins. We must find ways to increase their chances of success by providing reintegration services that offer more than transitional housing, transitional employment, and stopgap medical services. We have the opportunity to embrace a public policy agenda that builds on the successes of programs like CCF, which has a recidivism rate of less than three percent over three years. We attain these low numbers through a focus on a sustainable delivery model that takes into direct account the needs of those directly impacted, and we urge the Senate to carefully consider the long-term implications of passing this bill, which stands to grow the criminal justice system while offering little to no meaningful reforms to help those directly impacted by the bill.”



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.

News to Use
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 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.


9/14, CCF and EIO Comment on SUNY’s Decision to Ban the Box in Higher Education


NEW YORK – The Board of Trustees at the largest comprehensive public university system in the nation voted today to give potential students with criminal histories a second chance by moving its criminal history check box off of its current application process. The move comes after the Board of Trustees heard public testimony from formerly incarcerated students and advocates in May, organized by the Education from the Inside Out Coalition (EIO), to explain what barriers “the box” presents for applicants with criminal justice histories.

Momentum has been building across New York State toward Banning the Box in higher education for years. Most recently, hundreds of students spent the spring rallying to make change at NYU, and SUNY campuses. The ground work was laid for these efforts as far back as 2010 by one of EIO’s leadership members, the Center for Community Alternatives. It was this research, along with an updated EIO and CCA 2015 report called “Boxed Out,” that laid the ground work for the federal guidance encouraging colleges and universities to go Beyond the Box. These new guidelines were announced in May by US Education Secretary John King, and both EIO Co-Founder Vivian Nixon and EIO leadership member Marsha Weissman were invited to the press conference at UCLA’s campus for the reveal. After its release, SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher released a statement commending the move.

“I myself, was boxed out of SUNY Old Westbury when I reapplied to college after getting out of prison, and I am so happy to hear SUNY finally realized that we shouldn’t stop or deter anyone from bettering their life with education,” said Vivian Nixon, EIO’s Co-Founder, and Executive Director for College & Community Fellowship, a non-profit that helps formerly incarcerated women achieve a higher education. “I was able to finish my degree at SUNY Empire where I had completed a few courses prior to incarceration, and thus could return without reapplying. Others aren’t as lucky. I was so proud to represent EIO next to US Secretary of Education John King when he urged U.S. Universities and Colleges to look Beyond the Box back in May, and even prouder that SUNY has listened to our voices, our experiences, and will now give every potential student a chance to transform their lives with education.”

The 2015 study conducted by EIO and CCA showed that nearly two-thirds (62.5%) of SUNY applicants who disclose a prior felony conviction never complete their applications, compared to 21% of applicants with no criminal history across all of its 64 campuses. The study attributed the number to a “chilling effect” caused by a fear of stigma, and a set of complicated, and sometimes impossible, set of supplemental requirements once the box was checked.

“The research doesn’t lie. There is no empirical evidence that having a criminal history question on an application makes a campus any safer,” said Alan Rosenthal, Advisor on Special Projects for the Center for Community Alternatives, an organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration and mass criminalization. “The bottom-line is that this ‘box’ does nothing but deter qualified applicants in desperate need of a second chance. People who attend college are less likely to have further involvement in the criminal justice system, thus making our communities safer. EIO is proud that SUNY has decided to pave the way for other universities across the country who are still asking this harmful question of its applicants, under the false assumption that it keeps a campus safe.”

The Education from the Inside Out Coalition helped write proposed legislation currently in committees of both houses of the New York State Legislature. The Fair Access to Education Bill (S969/A3363) would make it illegal for colleges and universities to ask an applicant whether they have been previously convicted of a criminal offense. EIO is hopeful SUNY’s decision to “move the box” will spur action on the issue and lawmakers will finally pass legislation to ensure every college and university in New York State bans the box in higher education.

“Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution, and EIO applauds SUNY for listening to our EIO members’ firsthand experiences with the box,” said Glenn E. Martin, Co-Founder of EIO and President of JustLeadership USA, which aims to cut the prison population in half by 2030. “We can only hope the news encourages lawmakers to pass current proposed legislation in New York State, which will permanently ban the box once and for all. Education is the key to building stronger communities, families, and future leaders in this country; nowhere should a person’s past solely define their self-worth or future.”

CCF Welcomes Two New Programs!





8/24, Join us for CCF’s 2nd Annual Back to School Block Party!


Details: August 24th, 2016 from 11am-4pm Adam Clayton Powell Plaza (163 W 125th Street, New York, NY 10027)

Mark your calendars, because CCF’s Back to School Block Party is back! Join us and our community partners for a day of games, food, giveaways, performances, information tables and more!

08/09, CCF Hosts Twitter Chat on State of #WomenInPrison


Join us August 9th at 2PM EST for an online conversation about #WomenInPrison, Reentry, and change. Follow us on Twitter at @ccf_ny, and follow the hashtag #WomenInPrison on August 9th at 2PM EST to join in on the conversation!

7/18, CCF Joins FACES NY for 4th Annual Women’s Conference

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 9.59.36 AMRegister today, by clicking here.



6/27-6/28, CCF Executive Director Participates in the Aspen Ideas Festival

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Presented by the Aspen Institute in partnership with The Atlantic magazine, the Aspen Ideas Festival is the nation’s premier, public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to present and discuss the ideas and issues that both shape our lives and challenge our times.

Vivian Nixon participated in several break-out sessions on economic opportunities, the state of female incarceration, and so much more Read more...

6/20, Vivian Nixon Speaks at Vera Institute’s #ReimaginingPrisons Kickoff

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“We want people directly impacted to have a say in how you fix this problem,” said Vivian Nixon at the Reimagining Prisons kick off event on June 20th in Philadelphia. 

We are in an historic time, where de-carceration is on the national agenda in response to decades of growth in the numbers of people incarcerated. The momentum to end mass incarceration also provides a parallel opportunity to look at the fundamental questions of the purpose and goals of incarceration, and the values that underlie its use.

That’s why Vera is embarking on Reimagining Prison, an 18-month initiative that will seek to arrive at answers to these questions and shape an actionable new vision for the decades to come. Can we place human dignity at the operational and philosophical core of corrections, as other countries do? Are we ready to shift the goal and culture of incarceration from retribution to rehabilitation, and promote transparency and safety as guiding principles?Read more...

6/14, CCF Executive Director Speaks At White House’s United State Of Women Summit Hosted By Michelle Obama and Oprah


The United State of Women Profile Photo

WASHINGTON D.C.- On Tuesday, June 14th CCF’s Executive Director Vivian Nixon will participate in the first ever United State Of Women Summit at the White House, Co-hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah.

The White House Council on Women and Girls is convening the summit, a large-scale effort to rally together advocates of gender equality to highlight what we’ve achieved, identify the challenges that remain, and chart the course for addressing them. Experts, advocates, and grassroots and business leaders who work in both domestic and international arenas will gather to highlight key issues affecting women and girls.

Vivian Nixon will be speaking on a panel entitled, “Second Chances for Success: Women, girls, and the justice system,” from 2:50pm-3:50pm Tuesday, June 14th. 

The panel itself will be moderated by Broadcast Journalist Soledad O’Brien, and includes:

Piper Kerman, Author of Orange Is The New Black

Judge Catherine Pratt, Los Angeles Superior Court STAR Court

Brenda Smith, Professor, American University, Washington College of Law

Andrea James, National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls

Vivian Nixon, Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship 

Sue Ellen Allen, Author, Speaker, Activist and Ex-inmate, Global REINVENTION

More information on the summit is available at

Live stream the panel at 2:50PM EST by clicking here.

See who else will be attending by clicking here!


6/9, Graduation Ceremony for Formerly Incarcerated Women Celebrates Journey from Prison to College



 13 Women Who Overcame Incredible Obstacles have Earned Masters, Bachelors, and Associates Degrees with Help of College & Community Fellowship

Melissa Harris-Perry, Political Analyst and Educator, Addresses Graduates During Keynote Speech

NEW YORK – Thirteen formerly incarcerated women were honored Thursday at College & Community Fellowship’s (CCF) 16th annual graduation celebration in Manhattan. The four Masters degree recipients, eight Bachelors degree recipients, and one Associates degree recipient earned their diplomas this year from institutions such as Lehman College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Fordham University – all with the help of CCF, a nonprofit dedicated to helping women who had contact with the criminal justice system earn college degrees.

Each graduate overcame incredible obstacles to get from prison uniforms to caps and gowns. More than two-thirds of incarcerated people are re-arrested within three years of release – but to date, the women helped by CCF have earned more than 300 degrees, and less than 2% have gone back to prison in the organization’s 16 years of operation Read more...

Join us for CCF’s 16th Graduation Celebration


Click here to RSVP Today! 

5/23, With a few clicks, you can help Vivian Nixon’s Vision For a Re-entry Resource Application A Reality–Vote Today!

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Getting out of prison is hard enough…ConnectED could make finding vital educational resources in your community a little easier, but ONLY with your help!

College and Community Fellowship’s Executive Director Vivian Nixon has been invited to submit an idea to the 2016 Aspen Ideas Festival this June. If chosen, Vivian will receive funding to create her ConnectED app, which will make transitioning back into school and life after prison a little easier for every New Yorker.

ConnectEd is a proposed smartphone and tablet application that aims to compile and map reentry education resources in NYC to help those coming out of prison access educational services ranging from high school-level classes to college graduation and more. The app could be downloaded onto tablets used by currently incarcerated people to help plan for reentry, and would be designed to be scaleable: once the NYC version is proven successful, we can create apps customized for other locations.

A great and necessary idea, but it faces stiff competition from hundreds of other innovative submissions from around the world, which is why we need your help! 

Follow the instructions below, and please vote for the ConnectEd App! The deadline to vote is next Monday, May 23rd, 2016–so vote today! 

How To Vote:

Step One: Register.Click this link and create an account. Be sure to fill out that you are signing up for Festival 1.

Step Two: Find the ConnectEd App. Click this link to view Vivian’s idea.

Step Three: Vote! Voting is as simple as clicking the amount of stars you wish to give Vivian for her project. We hope you also think this is a 5 star idea.

5/11 CCF’s Vivian Nixon speaks at screening of “The Return” Documentary

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“Education is key on the front end & back end of the criminal justice system” – CCF’s Executive Director Vivian Nixon speaking at the #ReturnProject screening at New America NYC. (Photo by Jill Poklemba)

05/09, CCF helps the US Government unveil new Beyond the Box Guidelines

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On Monday, May 9th CCF’s Executive Director flew to Los Angeles to participate in the US Department of Education’s launch of it’s “Beyond the Box” guidelines.

The guide provides information for colleges and universities to help remove barriers that can prevent the estimated 70 million citizens with criminal records from pursuing higher education.

The move is monumental for CCF’s work with the Education from the Inside Out Coalition, and its concept was born out of CCF’s Just Change conference in December, in which members from the DOE and other federal agencies met with formerly incarcerated advocates to speak about criminal justice reform.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our donors, fellows, alumna, and staff who continue to support us in our efforts to remove all barriers to higher education for individuals with criminal justice involvement. We couldn’t have done this without you. #BanTheBox! #HigherEd4all!

4/29, CCF’s Theater for Social Change Performs Speak-back At Columbia University

Say Her Name[1]

4/27, CCF Executive Director speaks about institutional barriers formerly incarcerated women face


4/25, CCF’s Theater for Social Change Performs at Quinsigamond Community College

TSC Flyer 4-25-16Details:

Monday, April 25th, 1pm-2pm-Hebert Auditorium, Quinsigamond Community College (QCC), 670 West Boylston Street, Worcester, MA 01606 FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

4/19, CCF Executive Director to Participate in Nerdland Forever: Live with Melissa Harris-Perry

MHP Live

Come see Vivian Nixon perform/speak LIVE at the Museum of Drug Policy. Grab FREE tickets here. #StopTheHarm

4/11, CCF Director of Programs and Student Participate in Re-entry Symposium



3/30, CCF’s Vivian Nixon Participates in White House’s Women and the Criminal Justice System Convening

THE WHITE HOUSE, Office of Communications


 White House to Host Women and the Criminal Justice System Convening

Wednesday, March 30 the White House will host a convening on Women and the Criminal Justice SystemIn honor of Women’s History Month and in the lead up to the United State of Women Summit, this event will bring together justice-involved women and girls, family members of incarcerated individuals, women serving in law enforcement and other leading advocates for a more equitable and effective justice system. The event will also provide a collaborative environment to discuss and share ideas on ways to improve women’s access to justice in the community, courtroom and cell block.Read more...

03/28, CCF Screens “Gang Girl,” hosts documentary filmmaker for Q&A

On March 28th, 2016 CCF welcomed Valerie Goodlow and her family to help screen her documentary Gang Girl: A mother’s journey to save her daughter. The family answered questions from the audience after the screening.

To donate to Ms. Goodlow’s non-profit WINDOW (Women In Need Of Discovering Own Worth) visit:



03/18- March Community Meeting Focuses on Women’s Health

CCF welcomed nurse Alicia Pearsall to our March Community to talk about heart health, and to offer free one-on-one blood pressure testing. CCF’s Academic Counselor Lettisha Boyd also offered fitness tips to students:

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03/21, CCF TSC Director to Participate in NYU Panel
Be sure to check out CCF’s Theater for Social Change Director participate in a panel tonight at NYU! Details below, register by 3pm TODAY, Monday March 21st:
Artists as Global Citizens:
Building Bridges across Cultures through Performance
Monday, March 21 | 6:30-8:00 pm
The Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, 20 Cooper Square
Hosted and moderated by professor Judith Sloan, with
Leila Buck (MA ’08), Toya Lillard (MA ’98),
Elizabeth Mirarchi (MA ’10), and Lisandra Ramos (MA ’07).
How do artists navigate difficult dialogues in the creation of work that addresses and portrays diverse voices across age, race, ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds? What does it mean to be fully engaged in performance work that represents issues facing our daily world in terms of immigration, cultural identity, prison reform, and other issues that reflect hot-button discussions happening throughout the country? There will be a discussion and Q&A with the audience following short presentations by the panelists.
This event is co-sponsored by the Gallatin Alumni Arts and Society and the Gallatin Interdisciplinary Arts Program.
REGISTER by Monday at 3pm.

03/04, CCF’s Theater for Social Change performs at Columbia University’s Beyond the Bars Conference


On Friday, a Harlem-based group of formerly incarcerated women will share their stories with the likes of legendary activist Angela Davis and Empire actor Malik Yoba, in an inspired way—through theater. 

The theater troupe will perform original works based on their experiences with the criminal justice system for attendees of Columbia University’s Beyond the Bars Conference. The conference, now in its sixth year, aims to explore the impact of mass incarceration for communities nationwide.


12/7, CCF Hosts: JUST CHANGE- Northeast Regional Gathering hosted, moderated by Formerly Incarcerated Leaders


Communities and individuals who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration have the most knowledge when it comes to reforming the criminal justice system. Their experiences and stories can become the bedrock of public policy that can end the era of mass incarceration.

The Northeast regional convening is an opportunity for formerly incarcerated thought leaders to come together and speak to and strategize with officials from the Federal Government. Together we will create solutions to repair communities harmed by years of tough on crime public policy.

Join us a for a day of townhall discussions on this important civil rights issue.

RSVP:Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution.


12/4, CCF/EIO Hosts Graduate Rally to End Mass Incarceration


In 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo stood before leaders of the Black and Latino caucus and declared that state funds would be allocated to create additional in-person college programs. Now, almost two years later, nother has changed. Demand that Cuomo keep his promise to help end mass incarceration and fund post-secondary correctional education in this year’s budget.

CCF joins it’s advocacy arm EIO to take the fight to the Governor.

Date: December 4th, 11AM; start point: corner of Bryant Park 41st & 6thAve

10/28, Eleanor Roosevelt Lecture Series Presents CCF’s Theater for Social Change

The Eleanor Roosevelt Lecture Series was created in 2004 to honor Eleanor Roosevelt’s commitment to social justice and her important place in women’s history.  First Lady and U.N. Ambassador Eleanor Roosevelt served on Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees from 1949 until her death in 1962 and was Visiting Lecturer of International Relations from 1959 to 1962.  She gave the University’s first commencement address in 1952, receiving an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters in 1954.

Join us for our
12th Annual Roosevelt Lecture
The Letters Behind My Name
October 28, 2015
Alumni Lounge, Usdan

College and Community Fellowship’s Theater for Social Change will offer a performance titled, “The Letters Behind My Name,” directed by Elizabeth Mirarchi. Based in Harlem this group “uses theater to raise awareness about the impact of mass incarceration on women, families, and communities. TSC’s original performances are based on ensemble members’ life stories and experiences with the criminal justice system and as returning citizens, with a focus on eliminating barriers to higher education and advocating for reform.” More information including video clips is here:

10/22, With Female Incarceration On The Rise, Formerly Incarcerated Women Challenge Stigma With New #MyDoOver Campaign


Contact: Liz Holliday, CCF Communications Associate, 646-380-7783;

With Female Incarceration On The Rise, Formerly Incarcerated Women Challenge Stigma With New #MyDoOver Campaign

College and Community Fellowship, a non-profit helping formerly incarcerated women achieve higher education, features inspiring stories at and invites others to share their second chances

(NEW YORK, October 22nd, 2015)—Every year, thousands of women are released from prison and faced with the often-daunting struggle of reentry. Despite a 646% increase in the number of women incarcerated over the past twenty-five years, according to the Sentencing Project, very few organizations exist that specifically cater their services to formerly incarcerated women.

“The fact is that female incarceration rates continue to rise in staggering numbers, and yet when we talk about mass incarceration, it is always from the perspective of a man,” said CCF’s Executive Director Vivian Nixon, herself a CCF alumna. “This campaign aims to reduce the stigma of female incarceration by showing that whether it’s a new job, new wife, maybe just a new start; everyone has had a do over in their life. Second chances aren’t unique to reentry. Read more...

10/22, Stars of New York’s Criminal Justice World Collide for College and Community Fellowship’s 15th Anniversary Gala


Contact: Liz Holliday, CCF Communications Associate, 646-380-7783;

Non-profit that helps formerly incarcerated women achieve a higher education will honor its Founder, Barbara Martinsons, and the Ford Foundation

Event hosted by FOX 5’s Lisa Evers, with performances by award-winning former BET host Byronn Bain and CCF’s own Theater for Social Change

(NEW YORK, October 16th, 2015)—College and Community Fellowship ( will host its 15th Anniversary Benefit Gala, 15 years of Education and Innovation,” at Tribeca 360 in New York City on October 22nd at 6PM.

This year, CCF will present awards to two honorees: Barbara Martinsons, who created CCF in 2000 after seeing a need for educational support for formerly incarcerated women once they have reentered society; and the Ford Foundation, whose goal is to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation and advance human achievement Read more...

10/2: CCF Participates in #OACHAT Twitter Chat On How To Fix The System

CCF Executive Director joins a panel of advocates on Social Media to discuss how to fix a broken system:
Twitter Chat Promo


MEDIA ADVISORY: Formerly Incarcerated New Yorkers and Advocates Rally to Restore In-Prison Education


Contact: Liz Holliday, EIO Communications Associate, 646-380-7783,


Formerly Incarcerated New Yorkers and Advocates Rally to Restore In-Prison Education

Groups to call for reinstatement of Pell and TAP Grants for in-prison college programs, ahead of City Council hearing

Formerly incarcerated New Yorkers and criminal justice reform advocates will rally to restore higher education funding and grant eligibility to incarcerated students, ahead of a City Hall hearing on in-prison education reform on Tuesday, September 22. Council members organized the hearing in response to the Obama Administration’s plan to temporarily restore Pell Grant eligibility to a select group of incarcerated students Read more...


With summer rapidly coming to a close, CCF is not letting go without a fight! Join us for our first ever Back to School Block Party August 17th from 10am to 2pm at Adam Clayton Powel Plaza, as we say farewell to summer and welcome in the school year with our heads held high!

Expect family fun for all ages, with games (hula hoop competition, spelling bees), activities (face painting and giveaways), performances (CCF’s very own Theater for Social Change) and more. In addition to the fun, we’ll have more than 20 tables set up for area non-profits. So grab your friends and family and save the date! It is sure to be a day of family fun, and networking too Read more...

Press Release: Education from the Inside Out Coalition Praises President Clinton for Admitting Past Mistakes; Citing Importance of In-Prison Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 16th, 2015 CONTACT: Liz Holliday, EIO Communications Associate, 646-380-7783

Education from the Inside Out Coalition Praises President Clinton for Admitting Past Mistakes; Citing Importance of In-Prison Education

New York – Today, the Education from the Inside Out Coalition (EIO) applauds former president Bill Clinton for admitting his administration’s criminal justice policies were “wrong” and citing the need to reverse some of those policies – specifically around in-prison education. During a speech Wednesday, Clinton defended the intentions of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act by pointing to soaring crime rates, and a pressure to fix the problem. However he admitted the approach he chose was the wrong one, saying “I signed a bill that made the problem worse.” He said. “And I want to admit it. Read more...

CCF to participate in Social Justice Happy Hour

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Join Us! Social Justice Happy Hour

Tomorrow the Education from the Inside Out Coalition will host its first Social Justice happy hour for activist, advocates, policy wonks and everyone in between. Please join us for an evening of networking, strategy sharing and tales of your best lobby meetings.

Use the link to RSVP 

Press Release: Activists hold radical pop-up classrooms in Brooklyn, Harlem protesting barriers to education

For Immediate Release
June 20th, 2015
Contact: Dionna King, Community Organizer, 443-312-9636

Activists hold radical pop-up classrooms in Brooklyn, Harlem protesting barriers to education

Education from the Inside Out Coalition and College and Community Fellowship calls education a “human right, not a privilege”Read more...

L’Oréal USA Hosts Career Readiness Workshop as Part of Annual Volunteer Day

NEWS ADVISORY for Friday, June 12th


L’Oréal USA Hosts Career Readiness Workshop as Part of Annual Volunteer Day

Leading beauty company partners with College & Community Fellowship to offers career services and beauty workshop to unemployed and underemployed womenRead more...

PRESS RELEASE: Women Changing the Face of the Formerly Incarcerated

NEWS ADVISORY: June 4th 2015

CONTACT: Liz Holliday, (646) 380-7783

Women Changing the Face of the Formerly Incarcerated

NYC Nonprofit holds graduation ceremony honoring former criminal justice involved graduates

NYC – Fifteen women who have had previous criminal justice involvement, ranging from probation to convictions, will join together in a graduation ceremony honoring their educational achievements post-release. These graduates have earned degrees from various schools throughout New York State. However, the New York City based non-profit College and Community Fellowship (CCF), and host of the event, is an organization that has supported hundreds of women, earning 286 degrees since its creation in 2000 Read more...

PRESS RELEASE: Bringing Back Pell for Incarcerated Students


WASHINGTON D.C. /NEW YORK, NY – US Representative Donna F. Edwards (MD-4), along with Reps. Danny K. Davis (IL-7), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-3), Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3), and Cedric Richmond (LA-2), introduced the Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act today, which aims to return access to Pell grants for qualified incarcerated individuals across the country.

A move the Education from the Inside Out Coalition says will decrease reliance on public assistance, increase employment rates, improve physical and mental health, not to mention strengthen communities in the process Read more...

CCF Executive Director speaks at Incarceration in America Conference


BENNINGTON, VT- The United States has the highest documented rate of incarceration in the world, a rate that has increased by 500 percent in the past 40 years. CCF Executive Director Vivian Nixon traveled to Bennington, VT on May 15-16 to particpate in Benninton College’s Incarceration in America initiative, in response to this crisis Read more...

Report: In-Prison College Programs Improve Public Health, Strengthen Families and Communities, Reduce Crime and Recidivism


NEW YORK – A new report shows expanding access to college education for people in New York state prisons would not only benefit their health and well-being, but also their families, their communities, the prison environment, and ultimately all New Yorkers. The work by the Human Impact Partners and Education from the Inside Out Coalition is the first to focus exclusively on what health related impacts exist when currently incarcerated individuals have equal access to education, and has gained support from a collaboration of health, advocacy and criminal justice experts, as well as several New York State legislators.[1]

“The sooner we realize that withholding access to education isn’t a punishment for the incarcerated individual, but a punishment for our society as a whole, the better off we will be.” said Vivian Nixon, Executive Director of the College and Community Fellowship. It’s not enough to simply reduce the prison population. People need to come home to opportunities, and reinstating TAP funding eligibility to America’s incarcerated individuals will do exactly that.”Read more...

CCF’s TSC invited to perform at WK Kellogg’s America Healing Conference


ASHEVILLE, N.C. – As events in Baltimore raise the nation’s consciousness about racism’s impacts on human relationships, systems, structures and communities, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) will hold its fourth America Healing Conference, bringing together more than 500 community-based leaders, civil rights advocates, academics and journalists from more than 350 organizations to discuss the ways our nation must come together to heal and work toward racial equity and justice for children and families. The conference will be held Monday, May 4, through Thursday, May 7, at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville Read more...

CCF Team attends New York Reentry Roundtable Lobby Day



Our CCF team traveled to Albany to lobby for the New York Reentry Roundtable as part of Community Service Society’s Albany Advocacy Day on May 5, 2015.

Our two teams met with a total of six legislators to address barriers faced by the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated as they re-enter the community Read more...

CCF’s Theater For Social Change travels to Wellesley College to demonstrate successful reentry and importance of higher education through a performance at the Wellesley Centers for Women lecture series



WHEN: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The College and Community Fellowship (CCF) is pleased to announce its Theater for Social Change (TSC) ensemble’s participation in the Wellesley Centers for Women lecture series “Moving Beyond the Carceral State: Identifying Alternative Pathways for Women and Girls” on Wednesday, April 15th Read more...

Federal Pell Grant Eligibility for Students Confined or Incarcerated in Locations That Are Not Federal or State Penal Institutions

This letter clarifies that students who are confined or incarcerated in locations that are not Federal or State penal institutions, such as juvenile justice facilities, and who otherwise meet applicable eligibility criteria, are eligible for Federal Pell Grants Read more...

CCF’s Annual Celebration of Graduates: Experience the joy…

On June 12 2014, CCF had its 14th Annual Celebration of Graduates. We recognized 30 women who graduated from various degree programs at colleges and universities in the New York Metropolitan area in 2014. Both the reception and ceremony were inspiring!

Education from the Inside Out Coalition Co-Founder Honored by NYS Senate

Vivian Nixon, Co-Founder of the EIO Coalition, recognized for efforts to increase higher education access for justice involved students

(Albany, NY) – Today Vivian Nixon, Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship and Co-founder of the Education from the Inside Out Coalition was honored by the New York State Senate as part of Women’s History Month. In a resolution introduced by Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Ms. Nixon was recognized for her commitment to access to higher education and opportunity, particularly for those who have had contact with the criminal justice system. The resolution recognizes her past and current efforts advocating on behalf of currently and formerly incarcerated individuals as well as her role as a community leader Read more...

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