Ending Mass Incarceration

Providing Second Chances

America is a nation founded on the idea of second chances, yet we close doors that lead to a better life for a whole segment of the population. People with criminal convictions are stigmatized in the labor market and barred from specific jobs, unable to vote, and shut out of public housing.

But policies once rationalized as just desserts and good for public safety increasingly are viewed as counter-productive. Key arenas for creating second chances are in higher education and housing. What we’ve found: The payoff of bringing college back into prison, and using it as a sturdy bridge to support reentry. And that many people caught up in the justice system and then barred from public housing can live there safely with their families without compromising the safety of other residents—and that welcoming them is the smart thing to do.

Related Work

Series: Target 2020

Postsecondary Education in Prison is a Racial Equity Strategy

Consider who is most impacted by mass incarceration: Black people make up 13 percent of the country’s population, but more than one-third of people in prison. Latinx people constitute 18.5 percent of the country’s population, but account for 23.4 percent of people in prison. Currently, one in three Black men without a high school diploma or GED wil ...

Blog Post
  • Margaret diZerega
    Margaret diZerega
  • George Chochos
    George Chochos
July 14, 2020
Blog Post

Series: Target 2020

The Party Platforms Must Address the Urgent Need to Transform American Criminal Justice

America’s justice system is rooted in the nation’s history of slavery and racial oppression and applying a human dignity lens is necessary to achieve transformational change. This perspective values the intrinsic worth of human life and a person’s ability to grow and change. In that spirit, the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) urges important party ...

Blog Post
  • Logan Schmidt
    Logan Schmidt
  • Micah  Haskell-Hoehl
    Micah Haskell-Hoehl
June 17, 2020
Blog Post

From Corrections to College in California

An Evaluation of Student Support During and After Incarceration

California is a national leader in providing higher education to justice-involved people. A key driver of this movement has been the Renewing Communities initiative, a joint project of the Opportunity Institute and the Stanford Criminal Justice Center that sought to expand access to higher education among justice-involved people in California, both ...

Publication
  • Lionel Smith, Léon Digard
June 10, 2020
Publication

Lessons from Second Chance Pell

A Toolkit for Helping Incarcerated Students Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education announced the Second Chance Pell (SCP) experiment under the Experimental Sites Initiative, which allows incarcerated students who would be eligible for Pell Grants—a form of federal financial aid—if they were not incarcerated to access them while attending an eligible academic program offered by one of the ...

Publication
  • ​Allan Wachendorfer, Michael Budke
April 03, 2020
Publication

Growing Momentum to Expand Access to Quality Postsecondary Education for People in Prison

Postsecondary education in prison cuts costs, which provides opportunities to reinvest in communities. “Safer communities” is another way of saying less crime and less taxpayer dollars spent on prisons. According to the findings of Vera’s 2015 “Price of Prisons” report, states spend upward of $45 billion a year incarcerating people, but continue to ...

Blog Post
  • Fred Patrick
    Fred Patrick
June 18, 2019
Blog Post