Program for those who have been convicted

By Steven Adamo

With funding  set for the next three years for the Rising Scholars Center at East Los Angeles College, formerly-incarcerated students have a better chance of obtaining an education. 

Throughout ELAC’s history, very few options  available and only sporadically throughout the years.

ELAC received a $114,636 grant the state of California in 2019 for the The Formerly or Currently Incarcerated Students program.

 The program began in July 2019 in an effort to bridge-the-gap between jails, prisons and higher education.

 Lisa Vartanian, Assistant professor of the Psychology Department, said in 2019 that employment opportunities aren’t hindered in the field of addiction studies.

 Vartanian said that county and federal governments invest an increasing number of funding toward prevention, and jobs in this field are needed. Especially from people who have experienced similar circumstances. 

In a 2017 Campus News article by Francisco Portillo, English Professor Obed Silva said that education helped him during his transition from gang lift to his career as a professor.

 “I started going to school and doing well in my classes. I think the judge saw that I was trying to do good in life. Maybe seeing me in a wheelchair, he took that into consideration as well. I think those were some of the factors in not sending me to jail,” Silva said.

 In 2020, Silva released a memoir titled “The Death of My Father the Pope,” which features stories from this period.

In 2016, The League of Women Voters Los Angeles visited the campus and discussed the pros and cons of then-Proposition 57, which later passed by 64.46% of the vote according to 

At the time, Kim McGill from the Youth Justice Coalition explained that Prop.57 would give some non-violent prisoners an increased chance of an early release as well as allow judges to take circumstances into account and decide if a minor is charged as an adult, rather than the district attorney. 

McGill said,“District attorneys have to make charges based on crimes only and have to make decisions so quickly, sometimes without even seeing the person being charged.” 

The Upward Bound program was a successful program from the late 1970s until funding stopped in the 1990s.

 Prior to its shuttering, ELAC alum Jim Dooley was an assistant to the program in the early 1980s.

 As a formerly-incarcerated student, Dooley wrote about his experiences and compiled them in a book titled “Inside Huntsville Prison.” 

It is here where Dooley shares grim details about the horrors of being incarcerated in Texas and working in the fields. 

It was from these experiences that he began advocating for prison reform. 

In a 1981 article written by Campus News staff writer Willie Boudevin, Dooley said that more counselors and medical professionals are needed inside jails and prisons, especially for those who are first-time-offenders of non-violent crimes.

 In 1978, Dooley received his Associates Arts degree in Sociology at ELAC before receiving his.

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