In 1952, John Irwin (1929-2010) robbed a gas station and served a five-year prison term for armed robbery in Soledad Prison. During his time in prison, he earned 24 college credits through a university extension program. After his release from prison, Irwin earned a B.A. from UCLA, a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, and then served as a Professor of Sociology and Criminology at San Francisco State University for 27 years, during which he became known internationally as an expert on the U.S. prison system.
In 1967, Irwin created Project Rebound as a way to matriculate people into San Francisco State University directly from the criminal justice system. Since the program’s inception, hundreds of formerly incarcerated people have obtained bachelor’s degrees and beyond.
In 2016, with the support of the Opportunity Institute and the CSU Chancellor’s Office, Project Rebound expanded beyond San Francisco State into a consortium of nine CSU campus programs. The CSU Project Rebound Consortium is now a state- and grant-funded network of programs operating at CSU campuses in Bakersfield, Fresno, Fullerton, Los Angeles, Pomona, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, and San Francisco. Since 2016, Project Rebound students system-wide have earned an overall grade point average of 3.0, have a zero percent recidivism rate, and 87% of graduates have secured full-time employment or admission to postgraduate programs.
At CSUN, prior to becoming Project Rebound, led by Lily Gonzalez and Johnny Czifra, both formerly incarcerated, students engaged in a grassroots effort to develop a campus support system. Their efforts resulted in the establishment of Revolutionary Scholars, a student organization dedicated to creating alternatives to criminalization and incarceration, and Revolutionary Scholars Project, the precursor to Project Rebound at CSUN. Professors Marta Lopez-Garza and Martha Escobar served as the faculty advisers for the Revolutionary Scholars Project.