More than 2 million people are currently incarcerated in the United Sates. Minorities are disproportionately represented in higher education but represent greater than 60 percent of people in prison nationally. For previously incarcerated students (as is true for students of color), community colleges are the only avenue to higher education. Education is transformative and can lower recidivism while increasing sense of belonging, validation, and student engagement.
Alberto “Beto” Vasquez
San Diego Continuing Education
Biography: Beto Vasquez is currently finalizing his studies at UCSD where he is pursuing a Masters degree in biology. He is committed to becoming a community college professor of biology and ultimately an administrator of higher education. As a formerly incarcerated student, he is all too familiar with the multifaceted challenges faced not only by this demographic, but underserved groups generally. He works for San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE). He is an advocate for education, STEM and restorative justice.
(1) Previous experience coordinating, facilitating, and leading a series of professional development workshops in the greater San Diego County area to educate community college staff and faculty titled, “Education, not Incarceration: Facilitating Success for Previously Incarcerated Students.”
Most recently, the presenter partnered with the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges and the Opportunity Institute to host one of three statewide sessions on Supporting Formerly Incarcerated Students.
The presenter currently serve as Chair for the Warden’s Community Advisory Board at RJ Donovan State Prison, President for the Nostros Alumni Association (a nonprofit committed to assisting men in recovery), Co-Founder of the Urban Scholars Union (an education-based support group for ex-incarcerated students), and a founding member of the Region X (Southern California) Consortium on Education for Previously Incarcerated Students.
(2) It is no surprise that although people of color are disproportionately represented in higher education, they represent greater than 60 percent of people in prison nationally (The Sentencing Project, 2016). There are more than 2 million people currently incarcerated in the United Sates. This population has grown exponentially at an alarming rate of greater than 500 percent over the past 40 years. In California, an exacerbated prison system (over 180 percent capacity) (CDCR, 2016) has led to the imposition of federal mandates on state government to decrease populations within the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR). This has led to legislature designed to alleviate prison overcrowding. As a result, thousands of inmates have been released in California over the past couple years. Of those released to San Diego County, realignment efforts have led to individuals serving time out of custody or serving local prison time in county jails. Although the state appears to making strides to decrease the inmate population, there is yet much work to do in helping to rehabilitate the formerly incarcerated.
Rehabilitation is the new reality; these individuals will be our neighbors upon their release regardless of one’s biases. The presenter’s personal story, along with many others, serves as testimony that education is transformative and can change lives. For previously incarcerated students (as is true for students of color), community colleges are the only avenue to higher education. With the ability to meet students wherever they are at, community colleges across the state are equipped to provide the opportunities and resources necessary to increase a sense of belonging, validation, and ultimately the engagement of previously incarcerated individuals. It is important to cultivate the necessary partnerships between community colleges and community organizations to develop programmatic solutions, lower recidivism, and increase enrollment, retention, and degree acquisition rates among this population.
(3) This workshop will consist of a brief presentation covering the climate of our current national stance (with a special emphasis on CA) on mass incarceration, the disparities it leads to, and the need for innovative approaches to restore lives. The presentation will be followed by a student panel of formerly incarcerated students who will share their experiences and speak about education’s impact on their rehabilitative process. The panel will be followed by a brief Q&A session and a group dialogue about restorative practices being used (and challenges) in their regions to assist formerly incarcerated individuals seeking higher education and and an improved quality of life.
(4) Handout will be provided.
(5) The goals are as follows:
- Challenge stigmas surrounding Currently & Formerly Incarcerated (C&FI) populations
- Create a dialogue about restorative practices (and challenges) in other regions
- Increase network of reentry allies
- Discuss regional challenges for nontraditional students
- Raise awareness of challenges faced by C&FI individuals
- Identify ways to improve ability to connect with this population
- Challenge the ability to identify and mitigate personal biases
- Understand the political landscape with respect to justice reform
- Contribute to lowering recidivism
Educators and service providers