A new partnership between Lake Tahoe Community College and Sierra Conservation Center aims to give inmates a path to a better future after incarceration.
Earlier this month, staff with the LTCC incarcerated student program (ISP) traveled to the minimum and medium custody inmate facility in Jamestown, California to register 55 new students, many of whom are continuing college students, according to LTCC. The program expects to have 100 incarcerated students by fall quarter.
Inmates will have the opportunity to earn an associate in arts degree for transfer in sociology. According to LTCC, this broad-based program will, when complete, give inmates the option to pursue a bachelor's degree as a junior upon release or while incarcerated with a partnering institution in California.
The program exposes students to classes in history, psychology, political science and a number of other courses that can be applied to a wide array of four-year degree programs.
"We're very excited to be working with Sierra Conservation Camp," Shane Reynolds, LTCC's ISP director, said in a press release. "They're very welcoming and open to collaboration, and their line-up of programs and the people who run them are very strong. All of the staff and custody officers we work with there are enthusiastic and supportive."
The Sierra Conservation Center is a parent facility that oversees 20 male inmate camps from central California down to the Mexico border that serve as training facilities for firefighting techniques. Inmates at these facilities are routinely dispatched to help fight wildfires and other emergencies around the state, along with a variety of other community work projects.
The Jamestown facility also provides career and technical education programs in a range of programs intended to help develop meaningful skills and improve inmate hireability after release.
"We are pleased to partner with Lake Tahoe Community College to expand the amount of higher education options available to our inmate population," Hunter Anglea, Sierra Conservation Center warden, said in the release.
The incarcerated student program at LTCC was first approved as a pilot program in 2015. According to the college, the idea was to serve inmates in California's correctional facilities and promote their educational success — a concept that LTCC says is based on a wealth of research showing that inmates who receive education while incarcerated are much less likely to relapse into criminal behavior and return to prison than those who receive no education behind bars.
"There's no doubt a college education can be a huge help to someone caught up in the prison system," said Reynolds. "They're less likely to become repeat offenders. They find meaning in their lives where it might not have existed before. And, an education better prepares them for a life outside of prison, makes them more attractive employees with better skill sets, and all of that in turn helps them to become fully involved community members who are in a position to give back and contribute."
Nearly three years after its launch, LTCC's ISP has grown to serve seven prisons: High Desert State Prison, Folsom State Prison (men), Folsom Women's Facility, Folsom State Prison Minimum Support Facility, CSP Sacramento, the Growlersburg Conservation Camp, and now the Sierra Conservation Center.
ISP uses the "enhanced one-on-one" model, which was initially developed for a unique student population like prison inmates, according to LTCC. It is a pedagogical approach that has the goal of providing effective educational opportunities through one-on-one and large-group tutoring sessions, individualized feedback for each student, a bi-weekly administrative presence, video broadcasted supplemental class lectures, personalized registration and office hour/counseling request documents, and other student success support efforts.
"We can't perfectly duplicate what LTCC's face-to-face students experience, but we get very close thanks to a combination of personalized services and critical interactions with teachers and tutors," said Reynolds. "Our students tell me that they feel like real college students. We go out of our way to create as much of an on-campus experience as we can, and the results show it's working. They feel connected and cared for."