Long Beach

“Investing in a Better Tomorrow”: The CSULB program helps previously imprisoned people prepare for academic and professional success. – Long Beach, California

Long Beach, California 2021-08-02 11:00:25 –

Program coordinator Irene Sotelo and senior graduate student assistant Robert Ortiz Archila will help officially imprisoned students navigate colleges and careers at California State University Long Beach in Long Beach on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. He leads Project Rebound. Photo: Thomas R. Cordoba.

The Project Rebound Office, located in the basement of the Social Sciences and Public Relations Building at California State University Long Beach, is equipped with several desks, office chairs, and an unpacked box and is still in work. But for the program staff, this space is the culmination of many years of hard work.

CSULB is one of five campuses funded by the State University System to launch a new chapter in Project Rebound. This is a program established to help formerly imprisoned students succeed beyond academia and is one of 14 chapters throughout the state.

“This small office we are in means the world to us,” said the program on Long Beach after co-founding Rising Scholars, an on-campus organization for students affected by the criminal justice system. Project coordinator Irene Sotelo, who helped bring it in, said. In 2016.

Since receiving formal approval from the university in July 2020 and registering the first cohort in the fall, participation in project rebounds at CSULB has nearly tripled. Last fall, the Long Beach branch had a cohort of 12 students. This year, that number has grown to 30 students so far.

James Vinal, a former prisoner and current assistant professor of law at California State University Long Beach, said of the growing cohort of students expecting to attend the program next semester: “That’s pretty much it. I think it will be a thing. ” “COVID has slowed it down a bit, but I think it will take off in a big way in the next few years.”

Founded in 1967 by Professor John Irvin of San Francisco State University, Project Rebound was founded as a way to attract former criminals from the criminal justice system to CSU University.

Since then, the program has had some significant success. According to the university system, the recidivism rate for project rebound students was 0% between 2016 and 2020, but the state-wide average of criminals convicted of crimes again within three years was 50. %was.

Project Rebound members also have a higher student retention rate than the entire CSU population, which means that more students in the program returned to campus a year later.

“We bring greater maturity than traditional students,” said Robert Ortiz Alkira, who was imprisoned but is now a graduate student assistant in the newly established branch. “Because we have already failed many times. This is my last shot. I am making the most of it.”

Their experience also made the imprisoned students witty, Ortiz said.

He recalls an episode in the young history of the CSULB branch when the team was preparing an office for an important meeting. At the very end, I noticed that there was nothing to clean the floor. So they replaced the missing cleaner with Listerine.

“Being in jail teaches you that,” said project coordinator Sotero.

However, the pair points out that previously imprisoned students also face unique challenges. Take technology literacy as an example. Many of them spend years behind bars with restricted access to mobile phones and the Internet, creating a steep learning curve as they enter today’s technologically advanced world.

“Some of the people who came out have never touched a cell phone,” Sotero said. “They get frustrated.”

There comes the project rebound staff, who are mostly imprisoned. “We understand how it feels,” Sotero said. “Tell me each one.”

Ortiz Archila says the investment is worth it.

“Ultimately, you’ll come out of prisons, prisons, whatever, and you’ll be your neighbor,” he said. “Therefore, investing in people who were previously imprisoned includes investing in public security. You are investing in a better tomorrow.”

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