The Underground Scholars Initiative was founded by UC Berkeley alumni, Danny Murillo and Steven Czifra in 2013. Berkeley Underground Scholars was the first grassroots effort created by UC Berkeley students who had been directly impacted by the Prison Industrial Complex, including those formerly incarcerated people or with incarcerated family members. In the time since, USI has expanded to other UC campuses, including UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, and here at UC San Diego.
Underground Scholars Initiative, UC San Diego, is part of a statewide initiative creating 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, and others whose lives have been impacted by the carceral state. The goal of USI is to bridge the academic theoretical discourse of mass incarceration with one that is grounded in the lived experiences of UC San Diego students and people from surrounding communities.