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Grant-funded home to help clear path for students coming to Sac State from prison

Sacramento State’s Project Rebound, part of a statewide network, will provide housing for students in the program who are making their way toward college degrees after their incarceration has ended. (Photo courtesy of Project Rebound)

Formerly incarcerated students who are pursuing degrees at Sacramento State soon will have a home near campus where they can live, study, and plan for the future after their release from prison.

Total funding of $1.1 million will finance the home and its operation, the money coming from a $550,000 grant from the Project Rebound Consortium and $275,000 each from Sac State’s auxiliary University Enterprises, Inc. (UEI), and the office of President Robert S. Nelsen.

Project Rebound is part of a statewide network of programs that support the higher education and successful reintegration of students who have been incarcerated. Sac State’s Project Rebound program will oversee the housing program.

Students selected to live at the home will have a quiet place to gather and access to a variety of wraparound services, including peer support, tutoring, and technology help.

Project Rebound, launched in 1967 at San Francisco State by a former prison inmate who became a college professor, has satellites on 14 CSU campuses and last year enrolled 566 students. Since 2016, 492 degrees have been conferred to Project Rebound students. Fewer than 1% of project participants return to prison, compared to an overall recidivism rate of 46% among California inmates.

“This house will make a real difference in the lives of formerly incarcerated people and their families." -- Trish Morris, associate professor of Sociology and Project Rebound executive director

Sac State’s housing program will be the second in the state and first in Northern California. The University will model its program after Cal State Fullerton’s Project Rebound home.

Studies show that prison education helps reduce crime and contributes to stronger, safer communities.

The University has long partnered with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to provide education to state prisoners through its Transforming Outcomes Project. People incarcerated at Folsom and Mule Creek state prisons can apply for the program, in which Sac State faculty teach classes virtually and in person within the prisons to help inmates obtain college degrees.

Project Rebound came to Sac State in 2015, and serves 50 to 60 students each year. The project helps formerly incarcerated students obtain transcripts, access a wide range of campus services, apply for grants and scholarships, and otherwise carve a path to academic success.  

None of the hundreds of former inmates who have participated in Project Rebound at Sac State since its inception have returned to prison “to our knowledge,” said Trish Morris, an associate professor of Sociology and executive director of the campus program. Many Project Rebound participants have enrolled in graduate studies or gained employment in the region, she said.  

Sac State’s work with current and former inmates is an example of its efforts to make a difference far beyond the University’s campus, officials said.

“I am thankful for President Nelsen and so many other leaders on our campus for believing in our community to invest in us, and invest in meaningful social change,” Morris said.

“Our students have grit and determination and, of course, their academic successes are a result of their individual efforts and dedication. But we must also recognize the support of this amazing community of scholars we have built here at Sac State.”

The Project Rebound Hornet House will make the path easier for former inmates for whom housing can be difficult to find.

Project Rebound scholars carry an average GPA of 3.4, said Aaron Greene, who directs the program at Sac State.

“They also contribute to campus life and shine light on the transformative power education has on the student as well as the communities we live and serve in,” he said. 

However, criminal records and a lack of rental history make obtaining stable housing a daunting challenge, Greene said. Participants in the program must secure local housing or be paroled to the county where they were living prior to incarceration. For many, the only options are “couch surfing” with friends or relatives, he said.

UEI soon will begin its search for its Project Rebound Hornet House, ideally with four or more bedrooms and close to campus with easy access to public transportation. A house manager will oversee the home’s operations.

"University Enterprises, Inc., is delighted to provide funding in support of Project Rebound,” said Jim Reinhart, UEI’s executive director. “Their proven record of success in helping formerly incarcerated individuals avoid recidivism, earn their college degree, and become productive members of society is well known within the CSU system.

“This effort aligns with Sacramento State’s dedication to student success and support of the Sacramento region. We’re pleased to play a part."

Students with the greatest needs will receive priority to be residents of the home, officials said. Some Project Rebound students commute an hour or longer to campus each day.

“This house will make a real difference in the lives of formerly incarcerated people and their families,” said Morris.

“Our Rebound Scholars overcome more barriers than most to achieve their academic goals,” she said. “Every semester, with every new cohort of students, I draw hope from watching them shatter stereotypes, misconceptions, and preconceived notions about people who have been incarcerated.”

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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