Lewis Griswold

College of Sequoias partnering with Corcoran prison

A guard tower at Corcoran State Prison.
A guard tower at Corcoran State Prison. The Fresno Bee

As part of a larger plan to reduce inmate recidivism via higher education, College of the Sequoias is working at the invitation of Corcoran State Prison and the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility to bring classes to inmates.

The prison received a grant from the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, prompting Corcoran officials to reach out to College of the Sequoias for help with the educational component, said college President Stan Carrizosa.

“They asked if we’d be their partner,” Carrizosa said. “We’re willing to provide face-to-face educational programs at Corcoran prison.”

Prison spokesman Lt. Luis Martinez confirmed that College of the Sequoias will be offering a higher education program, noting there are several educational options at the institution.

The Corcoran area in southern Kings County is inside College of the Sequoias Community College District boundaries.

Coincidentally, Carrizosa served as principal of Corcoran High in the early 1990s. “It’s helped that I have a real feel for the community,” he said.

Five major meetings between college and prison officials have taken place, and college staff attended a special meeting to learn more about what is being planned.

“I think everybody is feeling OK,” Carrizosa said.

No college funds will be spent on the program, and new state legislation allows the college to collect student enrollment funds for prison classes.

Additionally, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office is strongly behind the project, Carrizosa said.

It will start with one class either this semester or the fall semester. Classes will be taught inside the prison by adjunct or regular faculty.

The first class will cover how to navigate the college system, including how financial aid works. English and more advanced classes will follow.

Students will be chosen by prison staff.

The program is inspired by the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison, where it’s possible to achieve an associate of arts degree.

The Rand Corp. studied correctional education and found recidivism to be notably lower.

“Data shows that successful completion of college education classes has proven to be the most successful form of rehabilitation and anti-recidivism,” a news release about the program stated.

SNAVELY: Porterville Unified School District Superintendent John Snavely announced last week he will retire July 1.

Snavely, 63, has been at Porterville for 29 years. No major unsolved problems are looming, so “the timing is right” to retire, he said.

On his watch, Harmony Magnet Academy opened in Strathmore. The engineering focus has attracted national attention: Two years ago, Deborah Delisle, an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education, paid a visit.

Additionally, the district’s high schools inaugurated pathways for students to specialize in agriculture, law and justice, health, billing and finance, engineering, environmental science, digital design and communication, multimedia technology, performing arts and alternative energies.

But he also is happy about the good relationship between the administration and labor organizations: “It makes for a well-oiled, well-run machine.”

School board President Lillian Durbin says Snavely “leaves a tremendous legacy for Porterville Unified School District. His positive leadership as superintendent has provided a solid foundation for our students.”

The school board will hold a special meeting in early February to decide what is next.

“We are committed to selecting the best candidate, either internally or externally, to serve as superintendent,” Durbin said.

Lewis Griswold covers the news of Tulare and Kings counties for The Bee: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold