Former San Quentin inmate graduates from Cal State East Bay

HAYWARD — At a graduation commencement ceremony at Cal State East Bay: a story of redemption. A former San Quentin inmate received his bachelor’s degree after spending 20 years in prison thanks to a program called Project Rebound.

As Cal State graduates queued for the presentation of diplomas, Forrest Jones was at the head of the line. And, as university president Dr. Cathy Sandeen welcomed the graduates, she may have been speaking to Jones directly.

“I’m sure it was hard for you to imagine this day would come but here it is,” she said.

In the mid-1990s, after some previous drug offenses, Jones was convicted of stealing a VCR. Under the “Three Strikes Law” he was sentenced to life in prison.

Cal State East Bay Graduation
Forrest Jones (center) received his diploma at the graduation ceremony on the Cal State East Bay campus Sunday.


While serving time in San Quentin, he joined the prison newspaper and began writing about the inequities of the law that sent him there. In 2012, Californians voted to change the law to apply only to violent offenders and, in 2018, Jones was released after spending 20 years behind bars.

“After I took my fall, I got up and I got back on that path and now I’m going down that road that I should have been on 20, 30 years ago,” he said Sunday.

He was welcomed to Cal State East Bay thanks to Project Rebound, which offers support and housing on college campuses for the formerly incarcerated.  Sunday, after two years in the program, Forrest was the first to get his diploma.

“I’m excited because I reached a milestone,” he said. “The last degree that I earned was 30 years ago. That was my Associate of Arts and I always wanted my next step to be my Bachelor of Arts and finally I made it.”

Jones wasn’t unique. Another former inmate, Alex Harris, also graduated Sunday via the Project Rebound program.

“You couldn’t tell me five years ago that I would be standing here on a sunny Sunday, getting my bachelor’s degree,” Harris aid. “You couldn’t tell me that five years ago. So, it’s like, it makes me think, what else can I do? What else can I accomplish?”

Project Rebound has been around for decades but this was the first involvement for Cal State East Bay and the program’s executive director, Dr. Eileen Barrett, said it’s been inspiring to see the way these two men have responded to the opportunity.

“These people are so interested in an academic life,” she said. “And it’s been very exciting to have them on campus and see them embrace the university.”

For Jones, who will now study for his master’s degree, it’s been a twist of fate he could not have predicted — a man serving life in prison is now aspiring to a life in academia.

“My ultimate goal is to get my doctorate. I’d like to be a professor here at Cal State East Bay,” he said. “I have no doubts anymore. Now that I’ve gotten over this hump, I’m a pretty cocky, confident guy. I can believe I can do anything right now!”

Jones has been hired by Cal State East Bay as a staff member and is creating educational exchange programs with San Quentin. That includes a university debate team that will compete against an already existing debate team at the prison.

Sign up to receive the best Underground art & real estate news in your inbox everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

This post was originally published on this site be sure to check out more of their content.