Inmates earn bachelor's degrees in first-of-its-kind partnership with the University of California

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Sunday, June 23, 2024
Inmates earn bachelor's degrees for first time from UC system
Twenty-three inmates from the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility received their diplomas from UC Irvine thanks to a first-of-its-kind partnership with the University of California.

For the first time, inmates have earned bachelor's degrees from the University of California system.

Twenty-three inmates from the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego received their diplomas from UC Irvine, as part of a partnership with the state. They all earned sociology degrees.

"Graduation is always a special day, not only for the graduates and their families, but for our entire university community," said UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman. "It is no exaggeration that today's graduation is extraordinarily special!"

"California is transforming its criminal justice system to focus on true rehabilitation, justice, and safer communities statewide - known as the California Model," said CDCR Secretary Jeff Macomber. "This collaboration with the University of California allows these graduates to build a foundation focused on pursuing educational opportunities that will prepare them for a successful future, while making our communities safer."

This collaboration between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the UC is made possible by a formal agreement through a program known as Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Educational Degrees (LIFTED). LIFTED enables incarcerated students to apply to transfer into UCI as juniors and earn a bachelor's degree in sociology from the university while serving their sentence.

The program's first cohort began taking faculty-led courses in fall 2022, according to CDCR. That same year, Governor Gavin Newsom and the State Legislature allocated $1.8 million over five years for the program's support and expansion.

"This is a historic occasion to celebrate both the first 23 incarcerated students earning bachelor's degrees from a top 10 public university and a successful partnership between two major state institutions, who are working together to bring a world-class public education into state prison," said LIFTED Director and UCI Professor Keramet Reiter.

The latest data shows more than 11,000 people in state prisons are enrolled in college courses. Studies show inmates who participate in educational programs are 48% less likely to return to prison within three years than those who did not have access to these opportunities, the CDCR said.