Beyond the Cell: Former Incarceration and First Year College Success

Mass incarceration in America is likely responsible for the scarcity of men of color on community college campuses across the country. Incarceration rates in the U.S. have drastically increased over the past 30 years and a disproportionate number of inmates are men of color. When formerly incarcerated students arrive on community college campuses, their futures are at the mercy of institutions that at times have no knowledge of their previous experiences on the “school to prison pipeline” and their incarceration. This study illuminates the strengths and assets that formerly incarcerated men of color bring with them to community college campuses and highlights how their perceived strengths support college success. The emergent themes discovered in the data analysis were inner strength, adaptability, rebirth, and peer influence and each are embedded with a crisis of trust and a desire for vulnerability that is interwoven throughout their stories. The data was collected from 27 formerly incarcerated men of color who have completed their first year of community college successfully in spite of their experiences on the school to prison pipeline that negatively impacted their ability to succeed at anything.


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