SAN QUENTIN, Calif. — For decades, inmates at San Quentin have been taking literature, pre-calculus, government, and other higher education classes. But as of this year, they will officially be community college students.
That's because the prison's college program finally gained accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
The designation came after the 19-member board reviewed the program and determined that it met high education standards.
The community college, believed to be the first in the nation with a campus inside a prison, is the latest edition of rehabilitation programs provided to California inmates.
One former San Quentin inmate says those programs can completely transform prisons.
"Rehabilitation does make a difference in the culture of the prison and also in the mindsets of the people that are incarcerated at these institutions," said Jesse Vasquez. "I think now with having one accepted accredited college, all of a sudden more people might be more open to the idea of like, 'hey, what if we try this revolutionary idea somewhere else?' So I think that the future looks hopeful for higher education in prisons."
Accreditation means the school is independent, not just part of the prison.
Now, the college can allocate more resources to classes, like bringing in new technology and library resources. It can also make it easier for students to prepare to transfer to other colleges when they're no longer incarcerated.