Sac State purchases homes for students released from prison and pursuing their degrees
February 17, 2023
Sacramento State has purchased two homes where formerly incarcerated students will be able to gain stability and pursue their degrees.
The homes are affiliated with the group Project Rebound, a statewide network that supports students who have spent time in prison and want to attend college following their release. Sac State’s Project Rebound affiliate will oversee the housing program.
Funding to buy the homes, plus furnishings and other needs, came from a $550,000 grant from the Project Rebound Consortium, plus $275,000 each from Sac State’s auxiliary, University Enterprises Inc. (UEI), and the office of President Robert S. Nelsen, said UEI Executive Director Jim Reinhart.
Joshua Gunner Johnson, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Sac State with the help of Project Rebound after his release from prison in 2017, will manage the two houses. Each home will house four students.
Finding secure, stable housing is a challenge for people who have criminal records and a lack of rental history, said Trish Morris, an associate professor of Sociology and executive director of Sac State’s Project Rebound program. Participants in the program must secure local housing or be paroled to the county where they were living prior to incarceration. Many end up on the streets or staying with friends or relatives.
“Everybody living in these houses will be striving for the same goals. They’ll have a nice place to live that makes them feel good, a refuge, a place where they can study and talk to people who can help them navigate things and get them ready for their next step.” -- Trish Morris, associate professor of Sociology and executive director of Sac State's Project Rebound program
The program’s homes will give formerly imprisoned students a landing spot where they can begin to build a new life, Morris said. The homes are near campus, but Project Rebound leaders are reluctant to publicly disclose their exact locations until neighbors are notified and residents are settled, she said.
“Everybody living in these houses will be striving for the same goals,” she said. “They’ll have a nice place to live that makes them feel good, a refuge, a place where they can study and talk to people who can help them navigate things and get them ready for their next step.”
Some of the incoming residents spent decades in prison, and have “no work experience, no credit, no way to take care of their basic needs,” said Aaron Greene, Sac State director of Project Rebound. “They need to be able to achieve stability so that they can function well when they are able to move out.”
Studies have shown that prison education helps reduce crime and contributes to safer communities.
Sac State has long partnered with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to provide education to 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 earn their degrees.
Project Rebound came to Sac State in 2015 and serves 50 to 60 students each year. The project helps participants obtain transcripts, access campus services, and apply for grants and scholarships, among other services.
The new homes represent a critical new chapter for the program, Greene said.
“We’re extremely excited about this,” he said.
Student residents will have access to computers and bicycles, can take part in group discussions and workshops, and will celebrate events such as birthdays, holidays, and other milestones, Greene said. The homes will have a strict policy forbidding drugs, alcohol, and smoking.
“We also want to make sure that the neighborhood looks good and is kept clean, and offer help to people who might need it,” Greene said. “We want to be good neighbors.”
Project Rebound residents are expected to move in next month.
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