Locations: Sarasota, Florida
Founded by Barbara Richards to deliver education for those incarcerated and formerly incarcerated. Richards was an Adult Basic Education and GED teacher in San Francisco County Jail, and she has always looked forward to the positive transformation her students choose to take in life.
Project 180 seeks to reintegrate into community life individuals who are or were incarcerated.
Project 180 delivers two classes in prisons and jails plus a lecture series for the general public. Volunteers and staff teach classes that take place in prison. There are two kinds of education that the program offers. “Workforce Education” is a two hour class that helps individuals with employment, and “Financial Literacy” is a total of eight hours split into two four hour increments. Both classes help prepare inmates for reentry and help to reach Project 180’s goal to reduce poverty, homelessness, unemployment and criminal behavior among former offenders. Participants complete the programs based off of their education level: Adult Basic Education, GED, and college prep. Students will have to learn how to manage their time with the homework they receive in addition to the other programs they take part in. The goal is for every student of Project 180 to have at least a high school certificate after the program completion. Bankers and finance professionals volunteer at Project 180’s financial literacy course where they teach students about credit, loans, budgeting, and saving.
Because prisoners view the classes in such a positive light, they find the classes to be beneficial and look forward to participating. Prisoners who attend the classes can be of any gender as long as they are an adult. However, the ideal participant for Project 180’s residential program is a male repeat offender who is committed to changing his life. This may be due to the fact that the residential program is new, so Project 180 is selective as to who would benefit most with least problems; co-ed residential programs can be hard to maintain. Male offenders are also more accessible and likely to be targeted since they take up a higher portion of the incarcerated population. However, that is not to deny that women incarceration rates are increasing as well.
Project 180 takes part in a lecture series for the general public. The series focuses on prisoner reentry issues such as “Barriers to Successful Reentry,” “Crime, Punishment, Redemption,” “Addiction, Reentry & Recidivism,” and, “The Prison Experience.” Although the lectures are costly to host, and depend on sponsorships, Project 180 feels that the lectures are extremely important. Barbara, the CEO of Project 180, explains that the education and awareness provided by the lecture series leads to public conversation that will hopefully lead to changes in the current prison system. It is because of the programs Project 180 offers that offenders are able to obtain work training and experience, housing, education, and a second chance to life without recidivating.
Project 180 does not earn money from their classes. Rather, they receive grant funding for each class.
What could be improved:
If Project 180 had sufficient funding, it would allow them to hire a marketing/development staff member. As of now, Barbara is the only person on staff. They are planning to open a residential program, but anyone with a major physical or mental health disorder isn’t eligible. Rather, the it will be a two year, life transforming program for male repeat offenders.