Department of Justice grant supports Penn College initiative
A Pennsylvania College of Technology initiative focused on strengthening education and employment outcomes for individuals returning to their communities after a period of incarceration has been awarded a highly competitive U.S. Department of Justice grant for $866,188.
Lauded as “admirable and innovative” by community partners, Penn College’s Lycoming County Prison-to-College Program received the grant through the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Second Chance Act Improving Reentry Education and Employment Outcomes.
The Second Chance Act Improving Reentry Education and Employment Outcomes program promotes an evidence-based and data-informed approach that will provide meaningful opportunities, interrupt the cycle of unemployment, improve economic mobility and promote reentry success for formerly incarcerated adults.
The grant will support formalization and expansion of the Prison-to-College Program, which began in 2022. The next phase of the initiative will benefit both pre-release and post-release residents at the Lycoming County Prison and the State Correctional Institution at Muncy.
“I am grateful for the support and vision from the Bureau of Justice and the many stakeholders in the college, the community and industry who provided input and guidance on this project,” said Craig A. Miller, professor of history/political science and director for the Prison-to-College Program. “This program is an opportunity for justice-impacted individuals to become empowered in their personal and professional lives. Educational programming in prison has been shown to significantly reduce recidivism and increase workforce participation.”
Among the state and local organizations providing supporting documents for the college’s grant proposal were the State Correctional Institution at Muncy, the Lycoming County Prison, the Lycoming County Commissioners, the YWCA Northcentral PA, and Transitional Living Centers Inc.
The partners applauded the transformative change made possible by the program as it equips individuals with workforce skills needed to lead positive futures benefiting themselves and their communities.
Penn College’s Prison-to-College Program launched as a pilot project in August 2022, offering inmates at the Lycoming County Pre-Release Center the opportunity to take the college’s Communications (ENL 010) course at no cost.
ENL 010 focuses on skills and competencies in basic writing for the workplace and is required in the following Penn College certificate programs: automotive restoration, automotive service technician, aviation maintenance technician, CNC machinist, collision repair technician, culinary applications, diesel truck maintenance technician, plumbing, professional baking and welding, as well as for the concrete technician competency credential.
Initial data reveals the program is proving successful for 15 individuals, one of whom has enrolled in the college’s human services & restorative justice major.
In addition to offering an entry point to postsecondary education, the next phase of the Prison-to-College Program will address needs such as intensive case management, academic remediation, tutoring, support services and employment.
A full-time project coordinator will serve as a liaison to the correctional facilities and residents. A 10-member advisory committee will include a number of community supporters, including the West Branch Drug & Alcohol Abuse Commission and PA CareerLink.
Various Penn College departments will support the initiative, such as Disability & Access Resources, the Center for Career Design, Admissions, the Financial Aid Office, and the School of Business, Arts & Sciences.
The initiative aligns with the mission, vision and goals of Penn College’s human services & restorative justice major. Students in the major are engaged as Prison-to-College Program volunteers.
Further demonstrating the community’s support of the project, the Prison-to-College Program earlier received two grants, totaling $93,750, from the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania.
Prior to joining Penn College’s faculty in 2011, Miller directed a nonprofit organization providing college courses to inmates in the New York state prison system. Called the Consortium of the Niagara Frontier, it partnered with three colleges to offer associate and bachelor’s degrees in business and accounting. The program had over 100 students and 10 faculty and staff.
Miller is a member of the Lycoming County Criminal Justice Advisory Board, the Williamsport Civil Service Commission and the YWCA Wise Options Advisory Board.
To learn more about Penn College’s human services & restorative justice major, call the School of Business, Arts & Sciences at 570-327-4521.