Editor’s Note: This article has been updated on 2/5/23 to replace the term “inmate” with “incarcerated persons” in means of writing with inclusive language.
The prison education program Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Educational Degrees (LIFTED) is the first to grant incarcerated persons the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s degree through the University of California system.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1391 into law in 2014, which funded $2 million to provide a rehabilitative program for state’s prison incarcerated persons. The bill allowed incarcerated persons to earn their associate’s degree from select community colleges. As of 2023, incarcerated persons are able to earn a higher level of education at UCI — ranked no. 8 in top public schools nationwide by U.S. news.
UCI announced in July of 2022 that the state of California provided $1.8 million — which equates to five years of funding toward staffing, accessible facilities and education materials for LIFTED.
Currently, LIFTED only offers a sociology degree. UCI professor and Vice Chair of Criminology, Law and Society Keramet Reiter hopes to expand its selection of degrees as the program progresses.
UCI is the first school in the UC system to provide an education to incarcerated persons who would return to their communities after their sentence.
“[UC Irvine’s LIFTED program] fulfills the mission of higher education in California — that anyone anywhere can access a UC education,” Reiter told Jail to Jobs.
The program includes a three-hour seminar that occurs four days a week. The incarcerated individuals are taught in-person by UCI faculty members at the Richard J. Donovan (RJD) Correctional Facility in San Diego. Additionally, over 50 members of the advisory board are interested in teaching incarcerated persons participating in LIFTED.
For incarcerated persons interested in applying in LIFTED, the program requires applicants to have earned an Associate in Arts sociology degree from Southwestern College, located in Chula Vista, with a minimum 3.5 GPA. UCI admitted 25 incarcerated persons from the RJD Correctional Facility to earn their bachelor’s degree in sociology for the fall 2022 quarter.
In partnering with California state prisons and community colleges, UCI’s prison program LIFTED plans to rehabilitate its incarcerated students and give them the opportunity to earn an education that would benefit them in finding future employment.
“At least 95 percent of people in California prisons will return to their communities, and most will lack the tools to compete in today’s job market,” Reiter said.
Prison education programs across the country work to lower incarcerated persons’ tendency of becoming reoffenders and have a chance at contributing to work and civic involvement back in their communities. A study and nationwide survey done by RAND from 2014 found that “[incarcerated individuals] who participate in correctional education programs had a 43 percent lower chance of recidivating than those who did not.”
Programs similar to LIFTED have also been found as cost-effective. According to the RAND study, the difference between reincarceration costs for participants not involved in correctional programs and those that are involved is $0.87 million to $0.97 million. Correctional education programs were founded to be a beneficial investment for the civic engagement of its communities and the state’s budget toward incarcerated individuals.
The integration of prison education programs like LIFTED opens up the possibility of closing the educational gap for incarcerated individuals. With a second chance, incarcerated persons are able to educate themselves in finding a career.
Mitchi Phung is a 2022-2023 City News Editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.