Fledgling NJ Program Paves a Path from Corrections to College

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Prison-to-college initiatives might become more common in United States

A little more than a decade ago, then-22-year-old Danny Feliciano stood at the front end of a six-year sentence in a youth correctional facility for robbery.

Today, the former inmate counsels young court-referred individuals as a Youth & Family Counselor at La Casa de Don Pedro Inc., a nonprofit agency that provides social services to the Hispanic community in Newark, N.J.

If you ask Feliciano what helped him make the 180-degree turn, after thanking God, he’ll tell you about the Mountainview Program that operates on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University.

Though a fledgling program that is currently unfunded and staffed by volunteers, proponents describe it as one of the rare but vital portals that enable current and former inmates to move from the world of corrections to the world of college.

Smoothing the path from prison to post-secondary education, the program provides current and former inmates from the Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility in Annandale, N.J., with academic advisement, advocacy in the college admissions process, and a positive peer group to help them stay the course.

“That kind of seamless link doesn’t exist in any kind of real way, and a lot of research seems to call for it,” said Bianca Van Heydoorn, director of education initiatives at the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice within the City University of New York.

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