New funding will help expand HEP Program
With support from a $750,000, three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Chaminade University of Honolulu will now be able to expand its Higher Education in Prison (HEP) program, which aims to be a pathway for participants to leave incarceration with new identities, perspectives and goals to help them thrive in society.
“At Chaminade, one of our primary Marianist values is to advocate for social justice for transformative change,” said Chaminade President Lynn Babington, Ph.D. “We support a rehabilitation-through-education narrative, which we know is essential to incarcerated individuals finding a pathway to a second chance and a better future.”
Chaminade’s current HEP program only serves males who are incarcerated at Halawa Correctional Facility. However, moving forward, the University plans to extend its cohort model HEP program to the Women’s Community Correctional Center (WCCC), as well as to those men serving time 3,000 miles from home at the Saguaro Prison in Arizona.
The goal is to expand degree offerings, starting with the men in Halawa, to include an AA in Liberal Arts that can be extended to a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies. The coursework for the three degree programs will emphasize a humanities and liberal arts curriculum, and will be offered in a culturally responsive and trauma-informed way that will resonate with the overly-represented indigenous prison population.
“If we want safer communities, if we want healthier families, if we want people who are incarcerated to have a chance when they come out, these are the types of rehabilitative programs we should be offering,” said Dr. Janet Davidson, Chaminade’s Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and a leader in criminology. “The idea is to shift the mindset. It will cost society less in the end.”
Citing racial equity as a primary condition that makes HEP programs urgently necessary, the grant underscores the over-representation of Native Hawaiians in the criminal justice system. According to data collected by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Hawaii’s incarceration rate increased by 403 percent from 1978 to 2016, with Native Hawaiians affected disproportionately. Though accounting for only 18 percent of the state’s adult population, Native Hawaiians represent 37 percent of those incarcerated. This statistic includes Native Hawaiian women who make up 44 percent of the incarcerated women in Hawaii.
While imprisoned women already have access to some college courses, they don’t have degree options. This Mellon grant will change this. “Since women are more likely than men to be the primary caretakers of dependent children prior to incarceration,” Davidson said, “their success after leaving prison will have a positive impact on their children and families, multiplying the effects of a single college degree.”
Providing education in prison has indeed proven to reduce recidivism rates, and is associated with higher employment rates, which will improve public safety and allow individuals to return home to their communities and contribute to society. Moreover, a 2018 study from the RAND Corporation, funded by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 48 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than incarcerated individuals who did not participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year, re-incarceration costs.
“The success of this pilot program—between Chaminade University of Honolulu and the Hawaii Department of Public Safety—demonstrates that partnerships can lead to transformative change,” Davidson said. “With the support and guidance of Chaminade’s distinguished faculty and support staff, and the cooperation and backing of Halawa Correctional Facility, these individuals have embraced the opportunity to redefine their futures. This program is part of Chaminade’s mission to educate for service, justice and peace. We hope that with their newly gained education, these students will have the skills needed to rebuild their lives upon reintegration into society.”