The Underground Scholars Initiative, also known as USI, creates a pathway for formerly incarcerated and system impacted individuals into higher education. We are building a prison-to-school pipeline through recruitment, retention, and advocacy. Our continued success directly challenges the stigmas associated with our population.
USI challenges societal norms concerning incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, specifically students impacted by issues of mass incarceration, imprisonment, and detainment of any kind. The goal of USI is to bridge the popular academic theoretical discourse of mass incarceration with one that is grounded in the lived experiences of UC Berkeley students and people from surrounding communities. We aim to shift the School-to-Prison pipeline to a Prison-to-School pipeline using higher education as an alternative to incarceration.
We provide students with a variety of academic and co-curricular support that are essential to achieving their academic, professional and personal goals. Committed to current and prospective formerly and directly impacted students, USI programs fall into three broad strategies: 1) Recruitment, 2) Retention, 3) Advocacy and Policy.