The mission of the Prison University Project is to provide excellent higher education programs to people incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison; to create a replicable model for such programs; and to stimulate public awareness and meaningful dialogue about higher education and criminal justice in California.
PUP’s central goal is to set a world-class example of a radically inclusive, academically rigorous, student-centered liberal arts college that happens to be located within a prison. We are above all committed to demonstrating both the central importance and the possibility of meeting the needs of students who often face a broad array of challenges that have until now caused them to be left behind. To achieve these goals we strive to meet each student where he is, and to provide the individualized support that is needed.
The Prison University Project has already made great progress in the development of a multi-project evaluation project of its impact, both while students are incarcerated and once they are released.
Our first evaluation project, using data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) showed that PUP graduates who have been released from prison are dramatically less likely than other released prisoners to be returned to prison for a new offense.
Our second project, a Demographic and Educational Experience Survey, helped the Program better understand students’ individual challenges they may encounter within the program, and devise systems for providing support before they struggle.
The overarching goal of this long-term initiative is to evaluate the impact of participation on the wellbeing of students, their families, the larger community, and society as a whole through surveys and interviews. We will continue to explore effects on students’ academic and professional attainment, civic engagement, mental and physical health, and recidivism rates.
- In the past ten years, PUP has served roughly 1,000 unique students at San Quentin State Prison.
- There are about 330 students currently active in the program, about two-thirds of whom are enrolled in college-level courses.
- The recidivism rate for new offenses among PUP graduates who leave prison is just 4 percent, compared to 19 percent for all prisoners released in California in the same timeframe.
- In the 11 years in which the program has been collecting data, no PUP graduate has been returned to prison for committing a violent crime.