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Grantee Video Spotlight: The Opportunity Institute

December 19, 2019

By ECMC Foundation 

Recent research from the RAND Corporation showed that incarcerated individuals who participate in correctional education programs had a 43% lower chance of recidivating than those who did not.

California has one of the highest recidivism rates in the nation. At last measure, 67% of those released from the California prison system return within three years. At the same time, the state is facing a projected shortage of 2.4 million college credentials by 2025.

The Renewing Communities initiative, run by nonprofit The Opportunity Institute, aims to increase public higher education opportunities and successes for currently and formerly incarcerated Californians.

In 2016, ECMC Foundation granted The Opportunity Institute $600,000 to help expand the program’s capacity, build more bridges between criminal justice and education, and lay the foundation for long-term, sustainable change in the way California educates its incarcerated population. With ECMC Foundation’s investment, the collaboration of 13 funders invested more than $9 million to support this initiative.

Since 2015, 19 community colleges have begun offering face-to-face college courses in prison, reaching approximately 4,500 unique students in 32 of the state’s 35 prisons.

The grant also funded new programs for formerly incarcerated students on the campuses of 10 colleges and universities. More than 30 additional colleges and universities who weren’t chosen to receive funding were inspired to fund and implement their own programs. 

The Renewing Communities initiative used the additional grant resources to create a prolific array of written resources and toolkits for the field. The team gave a series of presentations across the country and hosted a summit for California colleges serving currently and formerly incarcerated students which was attended by more than 300 people from over 70 colleges and universities.

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