The History of Project Rebound


In 1952, John Irwin (1929-2010) robbed a gas station and served a five-year prison term for armed robbery in Soledad Prison. During his time in prison he earned 24 college credits through a university extension program. After his release from prison, Irwin earned a B.A. from UCLA, a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, and then served as a Professor of Sociology and Criminology at San Francisco State University for 27 years, during which he became known internationally as an expert on the U.S. prison system.

In 1967, Irwin created Project Rebound as a way to matriculate people into San Francisco State University directly from the criminal justice system. Since the program’s inception, hundreds of formerly incarcerated people have obtained bachelor’s degrees and beyond. In 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, the number of Project Rebound students at San Francisco State who returned to prison was just 3 percent.

In 2016, with the generous support of the Opportunity Institute and the CSU Chancellor Timothy White, Project Rebound has expanded beyond San Francisco State onto eight other CSU campuses. CSU Fullerton is a part of this exciting new consortium of programs, which also includes CSU Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, Pomona, Sacramento, San Bernardino, and San Diego.

The Opportunity Institute's Renewing Communities Initiative is supported by nine state and national foundations, including The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation, ECMC Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Rosenberg Foundation.

John Irwin, Ph.D.

John Irwin, Ph.D., Founder of Project Rebound

Founder of Project Rebound