Rising Scholars Faculty Advisory Committee: Supporting Faculty Navigating the Borderland of Higher Education and Carceral Systems

ASCCC At-Large Representative

At the Spring 2022 Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) Plenary Session, the delegates debated and approved Resolution 13.03 SP22 Establish ASCCC Rising Scholars Faculty Advisory Committee. [1] This resolution was in response to the need to support faculty who are teaching in carceral settings and institutions as well as to ensure that the voice and perspective of faculty are brought forth in the conversations held between multiple governmental bureaucracies. In fall 2022, the ASCCC established the Rising Scholars Faculty Advisory Committee to engage with this work.

In its first year of existence, the RSFAC worked hard to develop relationships with system partners new and old. The 2022-2023 committee made meaningful connections with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) Rising Scholars Network (CCCCO, 2021). These connections provided the RSFAC with the background and context in which this social justice work was and is being done. From these early conversations, the RSFAC sought to further develop the Rising Scholars faculty liaison community through regular communication via the Rising Scholars Faculty Liaison Listserv. [2]

For 2023-24, the RSFAC has begun to identify more intentional ways to support Rising Scholars faculty. The committee hopes to collaborate with the CCCCO and CDCR to deliver professional learning opportunities for faculty and other stakeholders involved with their local institution’s Rising Scholars program or equivalent. These professional learning opportunities will necessitate describing what community college instruction looks like in a carceral setting.

Community college instruction in a carceral setting is a unique environment that aims to provide individuals with access to higher education and skill development. Rising Scholars faculty engaged in what their community refers to as teaching on the inside are guided by the primary goal of supporting individuals who are committed to engaging higher education as well as career technical education skills that can enhance their prospects for successful reintegration into society. Yet, the carceral setting is challenging. For example, teaching on the inside requires navigating security measures that impact how and when instruction can be delivered. Additionally, Rising Scholars are challenged with limited resources, such as limited access to the internet, textbooks, classroom space, and student services support such as counseling and tutoring.

Addressing these barriers has been a challenge unto itself. The most notable barrier is increasing and improving the lines of communications between and among various bureaucratic organizations. Unlike a traditional educational setting where institutional lines of communication for an instructor tend to be direct and can be conducted nearly instantaneously, the carceral setting often adds additional, albeit necessary, points of contact before instructional issues can be resolved. Needless to say, Rising Scholars faculty teaching on the inside necessitate specialized instructional support as well as increased advocacy that could help improve the teaching and learning experience in a carceral setting. The various stakeholders involved in the Rising Scholars program recognize this fact and have committed to resolving this and other known issues. The desire to resolve issues that are impacting the teaching and learning experience in a carceral setting is particularly important when one recognizes the moral imperative and positive outcomes of “proactively bring[ing] college to our students, wherever they are and not to wait for students to come to us” (CCCCO, n.d.a.).

Education in carceral settings is often seen as a means of rehabilitation. Beyond the tangible and measurable outcomes of carceral education, such as personal development, anger management, substance abuse treatment, and job readiness skills, all of which are necessary to prepare rehabilitated individuals for life after incarceration, exists a moral and social justice imperative that aligns with the Comprehensive Mission for Public Education in California Education Code §§66010.1-66010.8, the Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the California Community Colleges found in California Code of Regulations Title 5 §51201, and Vision 2030: A Roadmap for California Community Colleges (CCCCO, n.d.b.). Reducing recidivism rates and increasing post-release employment opportunities is equity work par excellence, and all system constituencies and partners must ensure that Rising Scholars programs or their equivalent are supported through and through. Yet, to do so, a commitment to change hearts and minds to embrace social justice is needed.

Changing the public's perception about carceral education is a huge lift, as the task is without a doubt complex and multifaceted. Any effort to engender a new tact with understanding carceral education must begin with addressing the negative perceptions that stem from misconceptions, biases, or lack of awareness about the potential benefits of such programs (Cleere, 2021).

The Rising Scholars Faculty Advisory Committee is committed to engaging in the following strategies:

  • First, and foremost, raise awareness about the existence and effectiveness of carceral education (Cleere, 2021). To do this, the committee will seek to share success stories of individuals who have benefitted from these programs as well as faculty who have supported those successful individuals.
  • As with any systemwide effort that seeks to operate in a space multiple bureaucracies occupy, the ASCCC must engage with stakeholders (Cleere, 2021) such as policymakers, educators, prison staff, and community members, not just about the importance of carceral education but also to actively identify known barriers and work to address them, particularly those that impact teaching and learning. The Rising Scholars Faculty Advisory Committee is committed to advancing the voice of faculty and students in these spaces.
  • Finally, changing hearts and minds of those who are critical of carceral education necessitates regular and consistent professional learning and development opportunities designed to promote restorative justice, advocate for policy changes, and foster empathy and compassionate understanding (Cleere, 2021). Restorative justice centers on the importance of rehabilitation and reintegration into society as a means of healing and preventing future harm. This type of work demands policy changes that support the increase of access to education and career technical education programming for those on the inside.  And for both restorative justice and policy change to be actualized, a concerted effort must be designed and implemented to challenge stereotypes and biases associated with incarcerated individuals.

The Rising Scholars Faculty Advisory Committee is steadfast in its collective belief that this equity work is a true north star that all should be guided by at the local institutional level as well as the systemwide state level.


Cleere, G. (2021). Prison Education and Desistance Changing Perspectives. Routledge.
CCCCO. (2021). Serving California's Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Community College Students.
CCCCO. (n.d.a.). Introduction From the Chancellor.
CCCCO. (n.d.b.). Vision 2030: A Roadmap for California’s Community Colleges.

1. Full text of all ASCCC resolutions.
2. Those who are are interested in remaining current regarding the Rising Scholars community’s communications should email ASCCC_RISINGSCHOLARS [at] listserv.cccnext.net to sign up for the ASCCC Rising Scholars Faculty Liaison listserv.