UCI, CDCR sign MOU to partner on in‑prison bachelor’s degree program

Three people in a video conference include CDCR Secretary Allison and UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman.
CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison, upper left, signs an MOU with UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman. At the bottom of the screen is Keramet Reiter, an Associate Professor for UCI’s Department of Criminology, Law & Society and School of Law.

Incarcerated students who meet requirements can earn B.A. in sociology

The University of California, Irvine, and CDCR signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to design the first in-prison Bachelor of Arts program offered by the University of California system. The Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Educational Degrees (LIFTED) project will enable incarcerated students at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility to earn a sociology degree.

“Expanding access to a UC education through LIFTED is an investment in the future of incarcerated people, preparing them to re-enter society and become productive citizens,” UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman said. “At least 95 percent of all prisoners will eventually be released, and higher education is one of the most effective interventions for reducing recidivism. Receiving a bachelor’s degree can help transform lives and communities.”

“Our goal is to ensure that the people in our custody get skills, tools and resources to prepare them for life on the outside,” said CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison. “I am a firm believer that a college education can make a huge difference in a person’s life, and I am committed to expanding educational opportunities across our system. I want to thank the University of California, Irvine, for this partnership and for their commitment to offer a new path for our incarcerated population.”

Since 2014, all 35 California state prisons have partnered with community colleges to offer incarcerated people the chance to earn an associate’s degree. LIFTED will expand on this starting in fall 2022. Up to 25 RJD students who have earned an A.A. in sociology through Southwestern College will be able to pursue a bachelor’s degree through this program. The existing UC transfer track will be available to those with at least a 3.5 GPA and who also meet all of the eligibility requirements. Students can earn their B.A. from UCI while serving their sentence or matriculate on campus if they are released before finishing their course of study.

The plan calls for UCI faculty to deliver required and elective courses at RJD, enabling the first cohort of LIFTED students to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2024. The program will also serve as a proof of concept for a model that is replicable and scalable for other community colleges in the state, UC campuses and CDCR prisons.

“This historic collaboration will lay the foundation for a new way of lowering recidivism rates, advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, and moving us one step closer to the dream of allowing ‘anyone from anywhere’ to educate themselves into a better life, as promised by California’s Master Plan,” Gillman said.

About the University of California, Irvine

Founded in 1965, UC Irvine is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Gillman, UC Irvine has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. For more on UCI, visit

Learn more about CDCR’s commitment to rehabilitation.