Incarcerated students who meet requirements can earn B.A. in sociology

The University of California, Irvine and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation signed a memorandum of understanding for the design of the first in-prison Bachelor of Arts program offered by the University of California system. The Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Educational Degrees project will enable incarcerated students at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego to earn a sociology degree.

“Expanding access to a UC education through LIFTED is an investment in the future of incarcerated people, preparing them to re-enter society and become productive citizens,” UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman said. “At least 95 percent of all prisoners will eventually be released, and higher education is one of the most effective interventions for reducing recidivism. Receiving a bachelor’s degree can help transform lives and communities.”

“Our goal is to ensure that the people in our custody get skills, tools and resources to prepare them for life on the outside,” said CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison. “I am a firm believer that a college education can make a huge difference in a person’s life, and I am committed to expanding educational opportunities across our system. I want to thank the University of California, Irvine, for this partnership and for their commitment to offer a new path for our incarcerated population.”

Since 2014, all 35 California state prisons have partnered with community colleges to offer incarcerated people the chance to earn an associate’s degree. LIFTED will expand on this starting in fall 2022. Up to 25 RJD students who have earned an A.A. in sociology through Southwestern College will be able to pursue a bachelor’s degree through this program. The existing UC transfer track will be available to those with at least a 3.5 GPA and who also meet all of the eligibility requirements. Students can earn their B.A. from UCI while serving their sentence or matriculate on campus if they are released before finishing their course of study.

The plan calls for UCI faculty to deliver required and elective courses at RJD, enabling the first cohort of LIFTED students to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2024. The program will also serve as a proof of concept for a model that is replicable and scalable for other community colleges in the state, UC campuses and CDCR prisons.

“This historic collaboration will lay the foundation for a new way of lowering recidivism rates, advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, and moving us one step closer to the dream of allowing ‘anyone from anywhere’ to educate themselves into a better life, as promised by California’s Master Plan,” Gillman said.

Watch the ceremonial signing of the MOU: