Margaret Hilaire, center, bows her head in prayer during a demonstration calling for the firing and indictment of Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia, Sunday, July 26, 2015, in Katy, Texas. Sandra Bland was found dead in her cell on July 13 in the Waller County Jail, just days after being arrested by Encinia during a traffic stop. Authorities determined through an autopsy that Bland hanged herself with a plastic bag. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The University of Houston-Clear Lake is working to improve the lives of incarcerated students by increasing educational opportunities after their release.

According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 75% of people released from prison are re-arrested within five years, which limits their employment prospects. It is a problem the university aims to address.

UHCL offers three degree programs at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice [TDCJ] W.F. Ramsey Unit and Beto and Coffield Units for men, located in Rosharon, Texas. For the first time, graduate courses will be livestreamed for women incarcerated at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas.

The university has offered the classes under the Academics for Offenders program since its inception in 1974, and it has since been renamed Transforming Lives by Degrees. So far, more than 600 students have graduated from the TDCJ program.

Alumni have accepted jobs at various organizations such as the Texas Railroad Commission, the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, and several halfway houses and substance abuse treatment facilities across Texas.

Dr. Christina Novakov-Ritchey, the program’s first designated professor, moved from California to join the UH-Clear Lake faculty. A connection to prison education was a major deciding factor.

“These students have lived generational patterns of poverty [and] abuse…,” she said in an statement. “Many have never had a chance at anything. The Transforming Lives By Degrees program at UHCL is a unique opportunity to extend a chance to these people, to help them develop their voice, their critical thinking skills, and their critical perspectives on the world.”

For more information on the UHCL’s Transforming Lives By Degrees program visit