The Prison Scholar Fund

We believe in second chances

aka Prison Scholars, PSF   |   Seattle, WA   |  www.prisonscholars.org

Mission

The mission of the Prison Scholar Fund (PSF) is to provide education and employment assistance to help incarcerated people succeed and thrive in society while avoiding homelessness and the revolving door of reincarceration. We also advocate for reform in correctional education to increase opportunity for all.

Ruling year info

2007

Founder & CEO

Dirk A van Velzen

Main address

1752 NW Market Street #953

Seattle, WA 98107 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

41-2175677

NTEE code info

Rehabilitation Services for Offenders (I40)

Fund Raising and/or Fund Distribution (B12)

Minority Rights (R22)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The US has the largest prison population in the world — 2.2 million people. 95% of people serving time in prison will be released after their sentence. Nearly two-thirds (68%) will be rearrested for a new crime within three years. The costs of this recidivism are staggering. The “annual economic burden” resulting from the high rate of incarceration in America is an estimated $1.2 trillion, or nearly 6 percent of the GDP. Research shows that prisoners who attend postsecondary educational programs are less likely to return. A RAND study demonstrated that those who participate in postsecondary educational programs have 43% lower odds of returning, and 13% higher odds of securing employment, than those who do not participate. The largest reductions in recidivism are realized when evidence-based programs and practices are implemented in prisons. Unfortunately, very few programs currently exist, especially when incarcerated students are precluded from Pell Grant funding in 1994.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Access to Education

The PSF opens access to accredited educational programming with tuition, textbook, and supplies support for incarcerated students attending postsecondary educational institutions. We also match students with coaches and mentors aligned for success.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people
Economically disadvantaged people

Where we work

Affiliations & memberships

Stanford GSB, Social Entrepreneurship 2016

JustLeadership USA 2018

Harvard Kennedy School, Nonprofit Leadership 2021

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Total number of incarcerations across clients

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Social and economic status, Ethnic and racial groups, Work status and occupations

Related Program

Access to Education

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Decreasing

Context Notes

The PSF has 4% recidivism rate compared to the national 68% recidivism rate within three years of release.

Average number of job interviews per client

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Social and economic status, Ethnic and racial groups, Work status and occupations

Related Program

Access to Education

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Job placement is a key factor to successful reintegration. All Prison Scholars have been placed in employment or education post-release.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The PSF is preparing inmates to reenter the social fabric when released with better-developed cognitive tools, and skills valued in the labor market to increase employability.

The PSF has aligned its programs to achieve the desired outcome of post-release employment and integration into society. Not only does the PSF support paper-based correspondence courses that virtually any inmate can complete, but is also introducing cached "hybrid-online" distance education, where inmates can pursue a bachelor's degree.

The PSF has partnered with Coding Dojo to provide training to formerly incarcerated people to become full stack computer programmers, skills that are highly sought in today's high-tech labor market.. You an read more about that program here:
1. Seattle Times article: https://bit.ly/PSF_TimesArticle
2. Coding bootcamp landing page: https://bit.ly/PSFbootcamp

The PSF is also dedicated to ensuring that system impacted families facing food insecurity have the nourishment that they require. We have thus supplies hundreds of thousands of pounds of food to justice involved families in the Pacific Northwest

The PSF is lead by Dirk Van Velzen who, first-hand, experienced the challenges and opportunities of pursuing a degree from behind bars. He enrolled in Penn State's World Campus from prison, earning degrees in Business Administration and Organizational Leadership, and graduating with highest distinction receiving the Evan Pugh Scholar Award (presented to seniors in the upper one-half of one percent of their class).

Since Mr. Van Velzen's release in May 2015, he has graduate from the University of Washington's certificate program in Nonprofit Management, took first place in the Social Venture Partners' Fast Pitch competition, won admittance to Stanford University's Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship, and completed a Harvard Kennedy School Nonprofit Leadership program.

Moreover, the PSF has a Board of Directors that represents decades of experience in both for-profit and nonprofit management and has attracted passionate volunteers in finance, marketing , development, technology, and programs. We are excited about making a lasting impact in Washington State and across the nation as we expand operations and scale up.

The PSF has supported 130 incarcerated students who are inspired to change their lives through education.

84 of the Prison Scholars have been released: only three have returned to prison, giving the PSF a recidivism rate of 4%, compared to a national re-arrest rate of 68%.

The current need in Washington State is estimated to be around 3,300 scholarships per year. The PSF is scaling up to meet that demand. We are also building a strategy to roll-out our programs to serve the other 49 states as well.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback, We ask the people who gave us feedback how well they think we responded

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, It is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection, Staff find it hard to prioritize feedback collection and review due to lack of time

Financials

The Prison Scholar Fund
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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lock

Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

The Prison Scholar Fund

Board of directors
as of 03/20/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Caroline Garry

Caroline Garry Branding

Term: 2018 -

Dirk Van Velzen

The Prison Scholar Fund

Uzair Khan

Amazon.com

David Israel

BFY Food Group

Caroline Garry

Gates Foundation

Tim Pauley

Robert Wood

Seth McCarty

Edovo

Barry Pailet

Healthcare

Antoinette Govan

City of Atlanta

Arjun Dubashi

Amazon

Mark Manual

Sai Nimmagadda

Microsoft

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 4/26/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

Disability

Equity strategies

Last updated: 04/26/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.