Chaffey College at Chino Institute for Women (CIW)

Chino Institution for Women (CIW) Associate’s Degree Program
Chaffey College


Five years ago, Chaffey College developed an educational partnership with the California Institution for Women at Chino.  In the summer of 2004, Warden Dawn Davison approached the College with a desire to provide a full-service college degree program within the institution.  Although some partnerships with educational institutions had been established in the past, operational complexities within the prison quickly dampened enthusiasm and tested commitments.  Consequently, the Chaffey program was designed to promote education as a rehabilitation measure through sustainable programming and services leading to marketable job skills and associate degree completion.  The program is committed to providing CIW students with the same high quality programs and services available to all Chaffey students.  In addition to having access to a complete course pattern leading to the associate’s degree, all the students at CIW are eligible for EOPS—which covers their texts and tuition—and are supported by counseling services, DPS services, and a Success Center within the institution.  Primary contributors to program development and implementation include Warden Davison; Dr. Sherrie Guerrero, Chaffey Vice President of Instruction; Laura Hope, Chaffey Dean of Instructional Support; and Chris Flores, Chaffey EOPS Coordinator.

In 2004, the College began the program with 26 students and a plan to help them achieve an associate’s degree within a three-year period.  From the beginning, it became clear that the desire and need for the program would exceed the capacity for delivery.  With that in mind, the dean and coordinators began to seek ways to expand the offerings and continue to strive for ways to improve program quality.  Because of the constraints of California law, the College cannot currently deliver direct instruction within the prison and collect apportionment.  Therefore, the College must deliver the instruction through digital recordings of classes on campus; however, students are supported face-to-face by regular visits from the classroom instructors, EOPS counselors, and DPS resource specialists.  In addition, a Multidisciplinary Success Center staffed by inmate tutors certified through the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) training program was created within the prison.  Initially, the students had access to 6 inmate tutors and a small computer lab.  Now the program enjoys the support of a dedicated Success Center space, 10 trained tutors, and 30 computers.  In fact, the CIW Success Center generated 5,430 contacts (approximately 8,600 clock hours) in Spring 2008 alone.  The Institutional Research office is gathering data to help determine what resources are assisting students best as well as the impact of the program on life success.  

In addition to enhancing services, the program has grown from the initial 26 students to approximately 100 students in four different groups.  The first graduating class of 13 students recently celebrated the achievement of their associate’s degree in March of 2008.  Of those 13 graduates, 11 of them graduated with honors.  The class, as a whole, achieved an overall 3.7 grade point average,


which is significantly higher than the 2.2 average grade point average of traditional students.  The next graduation is scheduled for fall of 2009.   Of those students and tutors from the initial cohort, 2 of the Success Center tutors were released and are now working as tutors at different community colleges in California.  Both of them reported that their certification as a Success Center tutor for Chaffey College was instrumental in their abilities to be hired at other colleges.  One tutor was hired specifically to assist in creating a Success Center model at Yuba Community College.  Similarly, one of the graduates who was recently released from prison affirmed that having earned her associate’s degree greatly improved her esteem, confidence, and marketability.  When she applied for work in retail, she was told that her educational success made her over-qualified for the jobs for which she was applying and more than compensated for her criminal history.  Additionally, 4 of the program graduates are now working in the CIW Success Center as tutors, contributing to the growing success and prominence of the program within the institution.

Even with these successes, as one might anticipate, a prison is a complicated environment.  Inmates are moved often, transferred, released, or disciplined, which all contributes to the challenges of success and retention.  Despite these challenges, the efforts make a tremendous difference in the individual lives of these women and in the community in which they return.  That is why the College has sought to provide additional services in both tutoring and counseling in order to ensure that the inmate students have a strong support structure to advance their success.  Unfortunately, without changes in the law, the program is likely stretched to capacity.  Presently, the program enjoys wide support from the President and Governing Board, faculty and administrators, student services and instruction, and this support has resulted in an impressive set of offerings and services for the students at CIW.  As more students are released into the community with their education and advanced skill sets, the Department of Corrections and the College will undoubtedly be able to demonstrate the efficacy of the program on recidivism rates and the improved quality of life for students who participated in this extraordinary opportunity.

To date, the “College Program,” as it is known at CIW, has graduated 32 students with Associate of Arts degrees.  Not one student who has been released with a Chaffey College degree or a tutor who has worked for the program while incarcerated has re-offended.  This demonstrates that the program is fulfilling its mission by transforming lives through education. 

Perhaps the greatest testament of how the Chaffey College CIW program delivers on the promise that every Californian has the opportunity to achieve his or her potential is the fact that not one visit to the prison goes by without several program participants showing the depth of their appreciation for the support and services offered through the program.  Whether it is a student commenting that this is the first time in her life that she has not “felt like a piece of dirt” or a student pointing out that “many colleges have come and gone, but Chaffey is the only one that has stuck around,” the Chaffey College CIW program offers hope for the students and hope for the entire inmate population that they do in fact have a future.   Such hope undoubtedly benefits these women deeply and undoubtedly uniquely embraces and serves the California Community College System Office’s vision “to foster access, success, and lifelong learning for all students,” a goal mutually shared by current Warden Garcia and Superintendant President of Chaffey College, Dr. Henry Shannon.