WASHINGTON, D.C. — Students who attend college after having involvement with the justice system face a range of challenges when navigating higher education. Student affairs professionals have both the ability and the obligation to help students with a history of justice involvement succeed in their pursuit of higher education in a range of different ways. One way that institutions can fulfill this obligation is to revise and develop policies and procedures using a lens that takes inclusivity of these students into account.
In an effort to raise awareness among student affairs professionals about the myriad ways that they are situated to help this student population, NASPA is pleased to release a new publication, Five Things Student Affairs Professionals Can Do to Support Justice-Involved College Students. The brief is written by Royel Johnson, a faculty member in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and African American Studies at Pennsylvania State University, where he is also a research associate at the Center for the Study of Higher Education.
The brief provides valuable, and frequently simple, ways that institutions can be intentional about creating spaces that are more responsive to the needs of students who have come into contact with the justice system prior to enrolling at the institution. These practices include strengthening existing student support services for justice-impacted students. This can include ensuring that student legal services can assist students with their legal needs and providing specific career services support for students who will may need to account for criminal history when applying for work after graduation.
Johnson, the author of the brief, said, “I am so excited to release this brief in partnership with NASPA. As we envision a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable future for higher education, the experiences of justice-involved students must be centered in our work. The recommendations presented in the brief aim to ensure that justice-involved students have access to educationally enriching experiences that promote their engagement and retention and ensure their belonging.”
The release of the brief is well-timed, as many locations implemented early release programs for some incarcerated individuals due to COVID-19 concerns. In addition, recent increases in Pell eligibility funding for individuals in prison-based programs will result in more justice-impacted students who may enroll in institutions with a bank of existing college credits. Creating welcoming environments for these students should be based on thoughtful changes, and involving the perspectives of justice-impacted students when possible. This brief is an important foundation from which to make these necessary changes within higher education to ensure the success of justice-impacted students across the United States. The brief, Five Things Student Affairs Professionals Can Do to Support Justice-Involved College Students, is complimentary and available for download on the NASPA website, at this link.
In addition to this brief, NASPA also recently added a new knowledge community to augment the work of student affairs professionals who are committed to the success of justice-impacted students in higher education. This new group known as the Formerly Incarcerated Students and System-Impacted Families Knowledge Community, welcomes involvement from any practitioners who want to learn more about this unique population and connect with others working to support just-impacted students. Those who are interested can find out more on the NASPA Knowledge Community website, or by selecting the knowledge community within their NASPA membership profile to receive regular updates about the knowledge community’s efforts.
NASPA's Research and Policy Institute generates scholarship and conducts policy analysis to articulate student affairs contributions to student success, learning, and development; interprets information to advance practice and policy conversations; and connects the many research and policy activities of NASPA members to increase reach and impact.
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