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Systemic Barriers to Higher Education: How Colleges Respond to Applicants with a Criminal Record in Maryland Natalie J. Sokoloff, PhD – John Jay College.

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Presentation on theme: "Systemic Barriers to Higher Education: How Colleges Respond to Applicants with a Criminal Record in Maryland Natalie J. Sokoloff, PhD – John Jay College."— Presentation transcript:

1 Systemic Barriers to Higher Education: How Colleges Respond to Applicants with a Criminal Record in Maryland Natalie J. Sokoloff, PhD – John Jay College of Criminal Justice Contact: Anika Fontaine, MA – Duke University 2013

2 Todays Presentation Context Review of Literature National Study Maryland Study Implications and Recommendations Questions

3 Context: Increase in Incarceration Source: Shannon, Massoglia,, Schnittker, Thompson, and Uggen. Growth of Felons + Ex-Felons, 1948-2010 FelonsEx-Felons

4 Race and Ethnicity in National and Maryland Legal Systems, in Percent Sources: Guerino, P., Harrison, P.M., & Sabol, W.J. 2011. Prisoners in 2010.; Maryland Division of Correction. 2010. Annual Report.

5 Racial Disparities: School-to-prison pipeline 2012 report shows significantly lower graduation rates (2009- 2010) for minority students: (52% Black, 58% Latino/a; 78% White) Teens of color are disproportionately "pushed out of education + pushed into criminal legal system with young Black men most impacted. E.g., students suspended at least once in 2009-2010: 3.5 times as many Black as White students. (**Baltimore: 5.6 times more) E.g., Marijuana use in 2010: SAME; but Blacks ARRESTED: 3.7 times more than whites in U.S.; 5.6 times more in Baltimore, MD.

6 Literature: Collateral Consequences Collateral consequences include: socially structured barriers to living-wage employment, occupational licensing, health insurance coverage, added fines, potential loss of and difficulty regaining parental rights, ineligibility for residence at some shelters for battered women, etc. Collateral consequences are wide-reaching: Disenfranchisement Social welfare programs Public housing Family reunification Employment Education (esp. higher education) (Exceptions: College & Community Fellowship; College Initiative)

7 Literature: Collateral Consequences Use of criminal records and self-reporting complicate concerns about collateral consequences Criminal records can be inaccurate + incomplete (e.g., were expunged) and are difficult to interpret (by untrained): the single most serious deficiency affecting the Nations criminal history record information systems (USDOJ,BJS) Self-reporting is problematic when individuals report youthful offenses (should be sealed; no reason to disclose; part of unnecessary stop and frisk) Misdemeanors have strong/severe impact (like felonies), because people often plead just to get out of court that day (e.g., childcare )

8 Literature: Higher Education Benefits of higher education: Increases life opportunities Decreases recidivism rates Higher education in prison is cost-effective and supports safety Research vacuum on people with criminal backgrounds seeking higher education in the community. Research suggest that benefits of higher education for women with criminal backgrounds and their families are even greater than for men **IRONY: As support for higher education in prison grows, educational opportunities for individuals with criminal backgrounds decrease in the community

9 Center for Community Alternatives: National Study Landmark study and only one of its kind: Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions Reconsidered (= CCA National Study) Surveyed 3,248 higher education institutions nationally Received 273 responses to electronic survey ( 8% response rate ) Thanks to Alan Rosenthal

10 Maryland Study Application review Findings for all 50 higher education institutions Common Application Electronic survey 7 institutions responded to survey (14% response rate) 5 additional institutions without policies provided additional information through interviews Combined 24% response rate =================================================== MD vs NATIONAL studies: Different Distribution: Explain later differences? MD (N= 50/50): more PUBLIC colleges respond (58%) NATIONAL (N= 273/3,248): more PRIVATE colleges respond (56%)

11 Percentage of Colleges with Criminal/Disciplinary Background Question on Application *MD sample: All MD colleges (applications); National sample: Survey respondents only

12 Percentage of Colleges with Criminal/Disciplinary Background Question on Application, by Type *MD sample: All MD colleges (applications); National sample: Survey respondents only

13 Comparison: National and Maryland Survey Findings Private and 4-year colleges are most likely to ask questions on criminal background in both MD and National studies Almost all colleges in both studies include additional steps in the admissions process for applicants with criminal backgrounds (100% MD; 94% National) offer an appeals Two-thirds of colleges in both studies inform applicants of the reason of rejection and offer an appeals process (67% in both studies) More of MD colleges place special restrictions on admitted students with criminal backgrounds, such as student housing restrictions (80% MD; 55% National) Some schools bar admission based on type of crime (some/all felonies, sexual offense, crimes against children) No schools collect data on admitted students with criminal records and related campus crimes

14 Additional Research Needed Roles of systemic biases of race, gender, class, sexuality and more recently immigrant status on applicants with criminal records Unique experiences/needs of female applicants Role of primary and secondary school disciplinary practices and recordsby race/gender/class/sexuality/immigrant status Prison-community and prison-college partnerships Transitions from prison educational programming to community-based colleges Gifts + challenges of college experience for people with prison records Impact of students with and without criminal records on campus safety Application of research to individuals incarcerated in jails

15 Overarching Implications We must pay attention to barriers to obtaining a college education as one of many collateral consequences of incarceration Colleges must be more mindful of unintended consequences of admissions policies related to applicants with criminal backgrounds Remember: Criminal backgrounds represent a wide variety of lived experiences. Stereotyping harms everyone. People with prison experiences add diversity to college classrooms, just like other marginalized groups; many gifts Impact of policy and practice reforms is LIMITED if do not simultaneously look to PREVENT social structural inequalitiesof race, class, gender, sexuality, immigrant status

16 I. Policy and Practice Reforms 1.We support National Study Recommendations: Colleges should NOT collect and use criminal background information in admission decisions. IF DO so, ONLY AFTER ADMISSIONS and with clear guidelines on use. 2.Clearly Warn on self-reporting youthful offenses: is NOT required. 3.Supportive services in general are needed; and these should include gender- specific supports for women (E.g., College and Community Fellowship) 4.REINSTATE PELL Grants for ALL People – In and Out of Prison 5.Encourage 4-year + private colls to accept/support people with criminal records 6.DIVERSITY of LEARNING APPROACHES/PROGRAMS should be available in prison and back in community: (e.g., Inside-Out; VERA Pathways from Prison Project– NJ, Michigan, NC (2 + 2) ; NYS-Prison to College Pipeline JJC Initiative (2 + 2); Bard Prison Initiative5 colleges in NYSand OSI grant: 10 states incl: Goucher in MD, Wesleyan in CT, Grinnell in IOWA, 2 colleges in IND; in10 states in 2 years.)

17 System Barriers to Higher Education How Colleges Respond to Applicants with Criminal Records in Maryland QUESTIONS + COMMENTS Natalie J. Sokoloff, PhD – John Jay College of Criminal Justice Anika Fontaine, MA – Duke University

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