This summer Pitzer College was awarded a $1.1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of its Critical Justice Education (CJE) program. The grant will enable CJE’s further integration in The Claremont Colleges and an expansion of Pitzer’s highly successful Inside-Out program.

“We are thrilled and honored to have the Foundation’s continued faith and support in our efforts to improve higher education opportunities for incarcerated students,” said Allen Omoto, Pitzer’s vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. “In our Inside-Out model, on-campus students take classes alongside incarcerated individuals, creating rich and unexpected opportunities for transformational learning, collaboration, and awareness.”

“There is an intensity to this ‘learning across difference’ approach” to prison education.

—Nigel Boyle,
Professor of Political Studies

The Foundation grant follows another $1.1 million Mellon grant in 2018 to establish the CJE program and coordinate collaborative justice education programs across The Claremont Colleges. The new grant will enable that work to be amplified through the creation of the Justice Education Center, which will oversee these collaborations.

For Professor Nigel Boyle, who directs Pitzer’s trailblazing Inside-Out program, this second award from the Foundation is an encouraging recognition that education remains vital to addressing mass incarceration in America and around the world.

“Creating a space for integrated higher education programs that bring traditional and incarcerated students together is pedagogically and institutionally radical,” Boyle said. “There is an intensity to this ‘learning across difference’ approach that is spectacular for all participating students. It’s great that the Mellon Foundation recognizes the power of this initiative.”

Pitzer College is one of seven institutions and programs nationwide to receive a grant through the Mellon Foundation’s Higher Education in Prisons initiative, according to a
Forbes report. Pitzer will also continue to explore a college pathways initiative at the California Rehabilitation Center and with Norco Community College.

also notes that a recent survey by the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison shows that “only about 600 of nearly 5,000 state and federal prisons and local jails provided higher education programs.” For Omoto, such data is a clear indication that programs like Pitzer’s are needed now more than ever.

“Pitzer’s pioneering efforts,” he said, “along with our Claremont Colleges peers provides an important blueprint for how other institutions might join us in expanding educational opportunities while also providing meaningful professional development for faculty.”