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UB School of Criminal Justice Selected as Participant in National 'Second Chance' Program to Educate Incarcerated

June 28, 2016
Contact: University Relations
Phone: 410.837.5739

The University of Baltimore's School of Criminal Justice is one of 67 colleges and universities from across the United States chosen to participate in the new Second Chance Pell pilot program, a U.S. Department of Education effort to determine whether participation in high quality education programs increases after expanding access to financial aid for incarcerated individuals.

The pilot program will allow eligible incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs and support their families when they are released. The effort builds on the Obama administration's commitment to create a fairer and more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on families and communities through educational opportunity.

"This faculty-led program is representative of the many ways in which the University of Baltimore responds to the needs of our city and state," said UB President Kurt L. Schmoke. "We are truly excited to be part of this national initiative."

At UB, the selection is seen as an expansion of a program that has involved the School of Criminal Justice, its faculty and students, and the Jessup Correctional Institution. For the past three years, Andrea Cantora, assistant professor in the School, has served as a volunteer faculty member in the JCI Scholar Program, a non-credit college program at Jessup. There, she offers the National Inside-Out Prison Exchange Course each spring. The JCI Scholar Program was implemented in 2009 by Drew Leder, professor of philosophy at Loyola University Maryland, and is currently run by Joshua Miller, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Loyola University Maryland. The Second Chance program expands on the JCI Scholar Program effort, and, through Pell grants to qualified individuals, encourages college completion to those who are on their way to finishing their sentences.

"When I started teaching in the JCI Scholar Program, I was incredibly moved by the motivation and participation level of the incarcerated men," Prof. Cantora said. "I had no idea how desired college courses were inside prisons. One student asked me on my first day of teaching at JCI, 'Why can’t we get credit for these courses?' That question came up again and again, and really bothered me. Finally the avenue to offer for-credit courses has become available."

"This is a major development in our nation's effort to reform our criminal justice system," said Roger Hartley, dean of UB's College of Public Affairs, home of the School of Criminal Justice. "Prof. Cantora's work with Jessup Correctional Institute places the College of Public Affairs and UB on the cutting edge of criminal justice reform, which has been a major agenda item for our president and our governor."

"This award represents the level of talent and hard work on the part of Prof. Cantora," said Debra Stanley, executive director of UB's School of Criminal Justice. "Her scholarship and teaching have focused on prison reform and reintegration of offenders to the community. With this grant she will help to make a difference in the lives of the offenders preparing for their return to our communities with the ability to complete a college education."

According to the Department of Education, the United States currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world—approximately 2.2 million people are serving time in American prisons and jails. A 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, funded by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who did not participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.

Colleges and universities selected for the Second Chance Pell program will partner with 141 federal and state penal institutions to enroll about 12,000 incarcerated students in educational and training programs. Through this pilot, these institutions may provide Federal Pell Grants to qualified students who are incarcerated and are likely to be released within five years of enrolling in coursework.

At UB, it is expected that about 25-30 men will qualify for and enroll in the Second Chance program. Students will complete coursework towards a Bachelor Degree in Community Studies & Civic Engagement (CSCE) with an option to minor in Entrepreneurship. UB is planning to implement a program model where students start their studies at JCI, but finish their degree at UB. Although students at JCI will have limited academic resources, e.g., no access to technology, UB will hold students to the same academic standards as traditional students on campus.

"We decided that the CSCE and Entrepreneurship degrees are the most appropriate programs for the JCI students," Prof. Cantora said. "Each time I teach at JCI I ask students what type of careers do they want to pursue once released. There is great interest to work in the non-profit sector, with at-risk youth and other marginalized groups. Many of these students have created violence prevention and mentoring programs on the inside. They are very passionate about giving back to the community and preventing the generational cycle of crime and incarceration."

"Access to high quality education is vital to ensuring that justice-involved individuals have an opportunity to reclaim their lives and restore their futures," said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "Through this partnership with the Department of Education and institutions of higher learning around the country, this program will help give deserving incarcerated individuals the skills to live lives of purpose and contribute to society upon their release. The Department of Justice will continue to pursue additional efforts to reduce recidivism, promote opportunity, and give justice-involved individuals a meaningful second chance."

Learn more about Prof. Cantora and the School of Criminal Justice, in the University of Baltimore's College of Public Affairs.

The University of Baltimore is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the College of Public Affairs, the Merrick School of Business, the UB School of Law and the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences.


Last Published 6/9/16