President/Superintendent's Blog

CR's Pelican Bay Scholars program received the 2020 Exemplary Program Award

Published on 12/6/2019.

Did you know Bureau of Justice Statistics studies have found high rates of recidivism among released prisoners? One study, which tracked 404,638 prisoners in 30 states after their release from prison, found that about 2/3 (67.8%) of released prisoners were rearrested within 3 years of release and more than 3/4 (76.6%) were rearrested within 5 years. More than half (56.7%) of these rearrests were in the first year after release. However, there is a 43% reduction in recidivism rates for those prisoners who participate in prison education programs. Indeed, the higher the degree, the lower the recidivism rate is 14% for those who obtain an associate degree and 5.6% for those who obtain a bachelor’s degree.

I am very proud that CR's Pelican Bay Scholars program has been selected to receive a 2020 Exemplary Program Award for our efforts to reduce recidivism rates of incarcerated or formerly incarcerated prisoners. Sponsored annually by the Foundation for California Community Colleges, the Board of Governors established the Exemplary Program Award in 1991 to recognize outstanding community college programs.

This award would not have been possible without the commitment of the staff and faculty of our Del Norte Campus and the strong support of the Academic Senate, CRFO, EOPS, Library, and Veterans Resource Center.

We were able to hear firsthand from current and former incarcerated prisons at our fall 2019 convocation ceremony that our Pelican Bay Scholars program goes well beyond the walls of the prisons themselves, extending into the home communities of the incarcerated students. Look at this video to hear from Pelican Bay students in the own words:

I want to provide an excerpt from the letter of support to the Exemplary Program Award Committee co-signed by Michael Dennis, Gary Sokolow and myself.

Providing innovative support services for these students is absolutely crucial to their academic and personal success.  And their success is absolutely crucial to their rehabilitation and reintegration into our communities state wide.   The prison environment not only creates challenges for our students, it also creates challenges for our faculty and staff to deliver high-quality education programming in a maximum security prison environment.

The attached application document details many of the innovations PBS has undertaken. The metrics in that document give hard data that show PBS’ innovations and our students’ efforts have turned the hope of success into a reality.  But these numbers do not tell the whole story.   As one of our recent graduates, Larry Vickers, said:

“This has been one of the most transformative forces in our environment. What was once a dark and dreary place is now lively and bustling with men moving back and forth to class with books and folders in tow. Individuals who never conversed and disliked one another due to ignorance are now engaged in conversations about history, psychology, art, biology, social work, political science and business.”

Vickers was sent to Pelican Bay for first-degree murder.  His soaring words speak to the transformative power of education and hope over ignorance and despair.  This power transforms not just the individual, but the whole fabric of his society, even a society as cramped and constrained as a maximum-security prison. 

The Board of Trustees and I remain committed to providing the necessary resources to support our Pelican Bay Scholars program and expand the number of students we serve at Pelican Bay. 

Rory Johnson has been invited to attend the Board of Governors for California Community Colleges meeting on January 13-14, 2020.


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