PRISON EDUCATION PROJECT (PEP)

Senior Program Coordinator

Hope. One of the most powerful words in the English language. Hope can bring transformation. Hope can spark creativity and resourcefulness. All the work I do is to foster hope in those who may have become hopeless.

My 25 years experience with the criminal justice system from both sides of the wall separate me from most who speak from only experiencing one side of the wall. Add in my 50 year paradoxical life and you have a vibrant, unique perspective that may help produce novel experiences and solutions.

The Prison Education Project (PEP) underlying purpose
is to inspire hope. PEP expands educational opportunities
for inmates in 11 California correctional facilities. With
the assistance of 700 university student and faculty
volunteers, PEP has serviced approximately 4,000
inmates in these facilities since 2011.

PEP is the largest volunteer-based prison education program of its kind in the United States.

By providing academic, life skills, and career development programing, PEP aims to educate, empower, and transform the lives of incarcerated individuals. The goal of PEP is to create a “Prison-to-School Pipeline” and provide in-custody students with the cognitive tools necessary to function as productive citizens. Our multi-layered approach enhances human development, reduces recidivism, saves resources, and allows participants to ultimately contribute to the economic and civic life of California. For every percentage point that we reduce recidivism, we save the state approximately $36.6 million (see calculation). A recent study funded by the U.S. Justice Department found that prison education reduced recidivism by 43%.

There are currently 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States with and estimated 95% will be released. Without economic and housing opportunity, what is this populous expected to do? If not now, when? If not us, whom? We are at a crucially tipping point of having more than 3,000,000 Americans either having been or currently under some sort of supervision of the criminal justice system with no little hope for their future. This disaster has been decades in the making and may take years to rectify. That’s why the urgency to start the conversations that lead to constructive solutions has to start now. It will take the whole community to heal the whole community. A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. The incarcerated, mentally ill, homeless and other disenfranchised groups of the community will need the rest of the community to heal and reintegrate crating the beloved community Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned.

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