Policy & Advocacy

Grasstops Policy & Advocacy Work

At the grasstops level, CCF works with program partners to increase access to higher education for currently and formerly incarcerated students. By joining forces with other reform organizations and conducting legislative education for Congressmembers, we move these campaigns forward. Our goals: permanently reinstate Pell grant eligibility for incarcerated students, “Ban the Box” on college applications and on financial aid applications, and create systems to make sure that only reputable schools offer educational and vocational programs in correctional facilities. 

Program Partners:

  • Coalition of Reentry Advocates
  • Coalition for Women Prisoners
  • Community Service Society
  • The Education Trust
  • JustLeadershipUSA
  • New York Chapter of the National Council of Formerly Incarcerated Women & Girls
  • Students for Sensible Drug Policy
  • Women’s Community Justice Association

 Grassroots Policy & Advocacy Work

At the grassroots level, CCF trains women impacted by incarceration to become advocates in their own communities. Women Influencing Systems & History (WISH), our advocacy training program, works with women in NYC who have had contact with the criminal justice system themselves, or whose loved ones have been incarcerated. 

WISH participants learn the ins and outs of how policy advocacy works, how legislation is made, what types of criminal justice-related campaigns are happening in New York City and State, and how they can get involved.

We connect women to all types of campaigns – not just those that explicitly work on criminal justice, like bail or sentencing reform, but also campaigns dealing with issues inextricably linked to criminal justice. Our women work on housing affordability, LGBTQ rights, healthcare access, and other issues that affect them, their families, and their communities.

Together, we’re making sure that the voices of women impacted by incarceration are adequately represented in these campaigns, and we’re increasing intersectionality across campaigns. For more information on the program, contact our Community Organizer, Ivelisse Gilestra: igilestra@collegeandcommunity.org

“I gained understanding of what organizing actually entails and the ways that I, myself can create and or be part of a movement based on whatever it is I truly believe in and would like to advocate for… I have just started to open up a side of myself which I knew I wanted to explore and finally have the resources to do so.” –Nathalie, WISH participant



FICPFM (Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People and Families Movement)

The FICPFM is a coalition of organizations led by directly impacted people. FICPFM’s national platform for criminal justice reform includes:

  • Banning the Box on job and college applications
  • Restoring employment, education, and housing rights
  • Re-enfranchisement and civic engagement for formerly incarcerated people
  • Law enforcement and prosecutorial accountability
  • Bail reform

CCF participates in this national movement both through the leadership of our Executive Director, Vivian Nixon, and through the advocacy of our students. In September 2018, CCF staff and students attended the FICPFM national conference in Orlando. Through the movement’s voter registration efforts, we helped register over 84,000 new voters in Florida who overwhelmingly voted to restore voting rights for people with felony convictions in Florida.


History of Policy & Advocacy at CCF

CCF first began advocating for increased access to higher education for currently and formerly incarcerated people in 2008. As one of three partners in the Education from the Inside Out Coalition (EIO), we worked with JustLeadershipUSA and the Center for Community Alternatives to advocate for Pell grant eligibility reinstatement, banning criminal history screenings on college applications, produce research supporting our work, and mobilize supporters on the ground and on college campuses for our campaigns.

For years, the EIO Coalition gained more and more traction on these issues.

In 2014, EIO responded to a federal request for ideas for the Department of Education’s “Experimental Sites Initiative.” Experiments under this program test the effectiveness of statutory and regulatory flexibility for participating institutions disbursing Title IV student aid. EIO saw this as an opportunity to reverse the harsh, ineffective policy within the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that revoked Pell grant access for incarcerated students and decimated access to educational programs for incarcerated people nationally. EIO’s suggestion, to test out the efficacy of reinstating Pell grant eligibility, was accepted and the project launched in 2015. CCF’s Executive Director, Vivian Nixon, worked with the Department of Education to review all applications from educational institutions seeking to offer courses inside correctional facilities. Today, the Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative is still running, and we hope this will be a stepping stone to permanent restoration of Pell grant eligibility for incarcerated students. 

Click here to read the EIO Coalition’s report on the effect of “the box” on college applications.

In 2016, EIO’s campaign to remove criminal history screenings on State University of NY (SUNY) campuses finally wrapped up with a victory: in September of that year, the SUNY Board of Trustees voted to move “the box” off initial college applications, choosing instead to conduct screenings only after applicants had been accepted to college.

Due to leadership and priority changes at our partner organizations, the EIO Coalition no longer exists. But CCF and our other program partners continue to work on education access issues nationally.