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Together We Rise: The creation of a new Knowledge Community

August 20, 2020 Melissa Abeyta, Ed.D. Joe Louis Hernandez, M.A.

The effects of mass incarceration in our nation have several consequences. Unfortunately, there are critical research gaps that exist regarding this student population. For example, national data is not available about this student population for the following reasons; (1) the findings from effects of recent reform legislation are still emerging from the national, state, and research community[1] and (2) educational institutions are not tracking this student population. Much of the current research focuses on instruction inside of prison and the school-to-prison pipeline in addition to recommendations for student affairs professionals for implementation and program development to better support this student population.[2] Moreover, research has been produced to help highlight the formerly incarcerated and system impacted student experience in an anti-deficit perspective presenting these students as “Streetwise Scholars.”[3] As a “Streetwise Scholar” students utilize their hustle as part of the skills and knowledge they developed to succeed in higher education.[4] Another strand of research has begun to focus on the experience of faculty with conviction histories in the academic job market.[5]

The NASPA Formerly Incarcerated Students and System Impacted Families Knowledge Community has been created to help fill this gap from national organizations for professionals and students seeking resources and community from conviction-to-education pathway. The NASPA Formerly Incarcerated Students and System Impacted Families Knowledge Community purpose is to focus on (1) in-prison education programs and (2) the formerly incarcerated student population in current 2-year and 4-year educational institutions. The mission of the Formerly Incarcerated Students and System Impacted Families Knowledge Community is to support student affairs educators to learn, share, and collaborate on tactics and strategies to support formerly incarcerated college students and their families in higher education. 

The immediate goals for this Knowledge Community (KC) are to advocate for services focused on meeting the needs of this specific student population inside and outside the virtual and physical classroom. The Knowledge Community seeks to suggest an anti-deficit and asset-based mindset through our collective scholarly work. Furthermore, we look to amplify the voices of researchers, staff, and faculty members who have been directly system impacted.  The importance of this KC is to highlight and amplify the voices of formerly incarcerated and system impacted students, researchers, and staff who are often consulted on the conception of projects however are frequently left out of final projects and actions. A continuous effort of the KC is to empower this population, refrain from using this population as research subjects but uplift them as researchers and guides. Additionally, we actively seek NASPA memberships that are reflective throughout all regions to join the new KC as we plan to learn, share, and collaborate on projects that ensure the mission of this KC is met for all students with intersectional identities. 

In addition to the creation of the new Knowledge Community, NASPA has recently released a new brief, centered on revisions to policies and practices that administrators can make to better support formerly incarcerated and system impacted college students who enroll at their institutions. The brief, Five Things Student Affairs Professionals Can Do to Support Justice-Involved College Students, is free and available for download here.

NASPA invites you all to join the new Knowledge Community to receive announcements, opportunities, and information related to our community. To join, simply follow the steps below:

  • Step 1: Visit the NASPA website at www.naspa.org and log in by entering your Username and Password
  • Step 2: Click on the “Update Profile”
  • Step 3: Click on “Edit Information”
  • Step 4: Scroll Down to the Knowledge Community Section
  • Step 5: Highlight all KCs you want to join including the “Formerly Incarcerated Students & System Impacted Families” and click “Save”

In addition to becoming a member, you can join the KC on the following social media sites for the most current news: 

[1] Bird, M., Grattet, R., & Nguyen, V. (2017). Realignment and recidivism in California. San Francisco, CA: Public Policy Institute of California.

[2] Abeyta, M., Torres, A., Hernandez, J.L., Duran, O. (2020). Rising Scholars: A case study of two community colleges serving formerly incarcerated and system impacted students. Manuscript submitted for publication; Torres, A. (2020). Watering the roses that grew from concrete: The support services for formerly incarcerated students on a community college campus. In process of publishing via Dissertations & Theses @ California State University, Long Beach; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection.

[3] Abeyta, M. (2020) Formerly incarcerated Latino men in California community colleges. Manuscript submitted for publication; Hernandez, J. L. (2019). You Are about to Witness the Strength of Street Knowledge: How 

Formerly Incarcerated Latinx/a/o Students Transfer Their Knowledge Acquired through Their Lived Experiences to Find Success in Higher Education and Build Resiliency. (Publishing No. 13815149). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ California State University, Long Beach; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection. (2268372975). 

[4] Hernandez, J. L., Murillo, D., & Britton, T. (2020) From Conviction to Convocation: The campus experiences of students with conviction histories.  Manuscript submitted for publication. 

[5] Custer, B. D., Malkin, M. L., & Castillo, G. (2020). Criminal Justice System-Impacted Faculty: Motivations, Barriers, and Successes on the Academic Job Market. Journal of Education Human Resources, e20190016.