California Community Based In-Prison Programs


Community-based in-prison program providers play a critical role in the lives of incarcerated people by providing healing and transformative programs, a bridge to the community through community leaders, and a safe and secure space within the confines of incarceration. Beyond the healing that happens in programs, programs and program providers provide connection and hope in an otherwise seemingly hopeless landscape.

Who are CBO In-Prison Program Providers?

This growing sector of community-based organizations offer in-prison programming for currently incarcerated people. In contrast with programs originated by the CDCR and delivered by CDCR employees, these programs originate outside the CDCR and are delivered by individuals affiliated with community based non-profit organizations. Community-based organizations propose that the programs offered through their organizations are of great value and more holistically impactful than the programs offered by the CDCR. For example, Insight Prison Project, a community-based organization providing "Victim-Offender" Dialogues in California prisons, advertises its program as "at the forefront of the urgently needed changes in the American prison system" (see: 

CBOs differ from CDCR-run programs in a number of ways; namely, CBOs often go through a competitive grant process in order to receive funding from the CDCR or the legislature to deliver their programs in CDCR prisons or seek outside philanthropic funding to do so. Because CBOs do not reside within the CDCR, CBO-staff are "free people '' who voluntarily enter the institution to provide services to incarcerated participants without funding attached to the institution. CBO programs diverge from the education/vocational/CBI models and provide complementary programs in pursuit of healing (broadly), encouraging accountability, and addressing intersecting needs, experiences, and identities. They do so by utilizing restorative and trauma-informed frameworks. California's CBOs offer programs for restoring families, behavioral insight, mental health, civic engagement, education, emotional literacy, entrepreneurship, employment training, intergenerational healing, legal advocacy, mindfulness, social justice, music, nonviolent communication, recovery support, "victim/offender" dialogues, technology training, and vocational gardening.