Supporting Formerly Incarcerated People Within Institutions of Higher Education

Supporting Formerly Incarcerated People Within Institutions of Higher Education

Elyshia Aseltine (Towson University, USA) and Andrea Cantora (University of Baltimore, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 31
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3056-6.ch005


This chapter focuses on the concrete steps that colleges and universities can take to better support formerly incarcerated people on their campuses. The authors discuss the importance of providing the assistance of navigators and peer support networks as well as highlight strategies for reducing barriers to higher education from admissions to completion. The authors close with a discussion on incorporating formerly incarcerated people in program design and in assessing the impact of this important reentry work.
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Background On Maryland, The University Of Baltimore, And Towson University

While mass incarceration is a nation-wide phenomenon and different jurisdictions share common patterns (e.g., racial disparities in incarceration rates), there are regionally specific political, economic and social considerations that need to be taken into account when thinking about how best to support the advanced education of formerly incarcerated people. While the authors draw on examples from throughout the country when appropriate, the bulk of the efforts discussed take place at two universities in the Baltimore metropolitan region of Maryland: University of Baltimore and Towson University. Those wishing to embark on similar efforts in their respective regions are encouraged to assess what might be feasible in their unique educational, political, and social contexts.

According to the latest available data, Maryland’s seventeen state-run correctional facilities hold about 18,000 people (Vera Institute of Justice, 2018), and its thirty locally run jails house a population of approximately 11,500 individuals (US Department of Justice, 2016). An additional 80,000 people are on parole or probation (US Department of Justice, 2016). While Maryland’s incarceration rate is smaller than that of many other states—it has the 34th highest incarceration rate in the country with 346 people incarcerated per 100,000 people in the population (The Sentencing Project, 2016b)—there remains reason to be concerned.

African American Marylanders are incarcerated at disproportionate rates compared to white Marylanders. In fact, of all 50 states, Maryland holds the highest percentage of incarcerated African Americans in its prisons—as of 2014, seventy-two percent of the state’s prison population was black though black Marylanders comprise just under thirty percent of the state’s population (The Sentencing Project, 2016b). This racial disparity is made more apparent when comparing incarceration rates (per 100,000 people) based on race in the state: African Americans are incarcerated at a rate of 862 versus 185 for whites (Prison Policy Initiative, 2015).

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