VISION AND GOALS
The Rebound Institute is a self-sustaining enterprise that will support formerly incarcerated and justice-involved people in their pursuit of a safe living space, education and employment opportunities that draw on individual skills upon release. In partnership with Bay Area law schools and attorneys, the Institute will also provide law students and others interested in justice reform with an opportunity to work with program participants on a variety of legal issues, including applications for record expungements, certificates of rehabilitation and clemency, with the intent of eliminating barriers to justice and reentry.
The Institute’s hands-on approach for cultivating consistent educational development, normalizing healthy decisions, and fostering business entrepreneurship will help lower recidivism numbers in the Bay Area. Our goal is to ease the stress of having to navigate complex challenges on one’s own.
The Institute team will routinely visit prisons and jails that have traditionally offered vocational-based training in custody, but without a plan to connect them with employers after release. We will offer a seamless transition for those who are motivated yet are unsure of how to start their life in an ever-changing world that is new to them.
Research shows that the lack of access to housing and employment are two of the primary challenges to successful reentry after a person is involved with the criminal-justice system. The Rebound Institute will address these challenges and complement the educational support provided by Project Rebound on California State University (CSU) campuses across the state.
Building on Project Rebound’s educational foundation, the Institute will further increase students’ success by considering a full range of variables in their personal life and the lack of preparation in current incarceration practices.
Meeting the Need
During more than 50 years of supporting formerly incarcerated students as they pursue higher education, Project Rebound has continually encountered gaps in resources and services that impede the transition into campus and community life. In some cases, the transitional gaps have undermined individual student success.
Formerly incarcerated people face a pressing need for:
Finding appropriate and affordable housing is a constant challenge for people returning to the community. When considered for release, individuals are expected to establish a viable plan that includes housing. The uncertainty of being approved for release can be extremely disconcerting. There is also always the question of whether the housing program has capacity to provide a space on very short notice and with little preparation time.
People typically leave prison with no more than $200 in their pocket, requiring them to quickly find a job to cover the cost of food, rent and other basic needs. The pressure to find a job without adequate preparation or skills creates tremendous anxiety at the vulnerable point of reentry. Although the prison system may offer vocational and soft skills training in custody (communications, job interviewing, team work), there is generally little or no push to develop a post-release plan to apply those skills to survive financially upon return. Within the community, there are few job-training programs. Even where people have been part of focused training programs while in prison and have learned a trade, they still face obstacles to securing and maintaining employment once out of custody.
Many formerly incarcerated individuals lack certain basic life skills for living on the outside, such as cooking, doing laundry, using a computer, and maintaining personal finances. While they are incarcerated, the prison provides their food and clothing, and often they reenter the community without these skills to provide for themselves. Drawing on the real-life experiences of those who have successfully traversed the reintegration process, we plan to incorporate life-preparedness skills such as opening a bank account, building credit, time management, and learning health and culinary basics.
Building self-reliance is key to an individual’s reintegration into community life. The traditional soft skills often provided in custody are a great starting point, but consideration must be given to other basic life deficits that are the result of having been cut off from the continually changing world.
Education and Training
California state prisons provide 20 Career Technical Education programs in various industry-recognized certification and job pathways, yet none provides a seamless and direct transition into a career beyond prison. Most provide vocational training without a plan of how to effectively translate those skills into a job or continued education outside of prison. The exceptions (Soledad, Avenal, Elmwood and San Quentin) offer in-depth training in trades and are located are within easy outreach distance. We would strategically forge relationships with prisons that train individuals in the vocations that have entrepreneurial support at the Rebound Institute.
The Institute will apply those skills for personal independence as people work toward their long-term goals of freedom and self-sustainment, without the additional stresses of having to cold-call strangers about jobs and housing and eventually disclose compromising history that could ultimately work against making positive life changes.
Similarly, the Institute will seek participants who have been enrolled in higher-education programs that are part of the prison system. A notable example is Mount Tamalpais College (formerly the Prison University Project) at San Quentin, the first independent liberal arts institution dedicated specifically to serving incarcerated students. Students there can earn associate of arts degrees, which enable them transfer to SF State University and other four-year universities and colleges.
We will continue our already strong relationship with Mount Tamalpais College, which for many years has served as a pipeline to Project Rebound and SF State.
Legal Advocacy and Support
Resolving legal constraints that persist even after release and the end of parole is a vital step toward restoring the full rights of citizenship. We want to promote the California Certificate of Rehabilitation as an incentive, reward and recognition for the formerly incarcerated and as a powerful tool and symbol to achieve restorative criminal-justice reform.
With proper legal guidance, we can give real meaning to the concept of rehabilitation through positive social-life changes and help from the courts. A criminal history – from losing the right to vote or serve on juries to exclusions from obtaining professional licenses – can seriously hold back the potential of the formerly incarcerated and limit their reentry success.