Grant provides opportunity to formerly and currently incarcerated students

CN/ Steven Adamo

By Steven Adamo

Help for formerly or currently incarcerated students will be offered at ELAC starting July thanks to a $114,636 grant from the state of California. ELAC is one of 52 community colleges in California to receive the grant. 

The Formerly or Currently Incarcerated Students program aims to provide a clear educational pathway and the skills necessary for employment. “(It) will provide them with tutoring, an academic coach, emotional support team and a person to help navigate them through the educational process,” Lisa Vartanian, Assistant Professor of the Psychology Department, said. 

Vartanian said a criminal record often prevents people from securing employment opportunities, but in the field of Addiction Studies, it does not. “Currently, the county and the federal government are putting a lot of money into prevention, so now we are training prevention specialists so that they can go out and get a job right away,” Vartanian said. “It will help (students) develop a career path where their background isn’t going to hinder them in any way,” Vartanian said. 

Students enrolled in the program will take three 3-unit courses in order to receive a certificate as a Prevention Specialist. The courses include Addiction Studies 1: Introduction to Drugs and Alcohol, Addiction Studies 22: Prevention, and Addiction Studies 7: Intervention. 

For currently incarcerated students, classes will begin at the Lynwood Women’s Jail. Outreach will work with other facilities in the future. 

Lou Hughes, an internal evaluator for the Addiction Studies Department, helped write the grant with Vartanian and will also determine if the project is reaching its goals and objectives. 

“A primary job source will be the 300 prevention and treatment programs funded by the Los Angeles County Substance Abuse Prevention and Control (SAPC) Department,” said Hughes. “With more emphasis on prevention, other job sources include non profit organizations, and service organizations.”

Based on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, The Sentencing Project— a non-profit organization focusing on criminal justice— incarceration rates have skyrocketed during the “war on drugs” in the early 1980s. 40,900 people were incarcerated for drug offenses in 1980, compared to 450,345 in 2016.

Early referrals for the new FOCIS program at ELAC are coming from the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s Juvenile diversion program as well as the Conviction and Sentence Alternatives program, which was designed by the U.S. District Court, U.S. Pretrial Services Agency, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Central District of California. 

Students interested in the program for themselves, a family member or friend can visit the Psychology Department office at F7-316 for more information.

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