Senators Consider Reinstating Pell Grants For Prisoners
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by Countable | 2.16.18
What’s the story?
As part of the 1994 Crime Bill, Congress banned prisoners from receiving Pell grants — federal subsidies that assist low to middle-income students in paying for post-secondary education. Senators are now considering repealing that ban, allowing federal money to flow to the nation’s cash-strapped prison education system.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) are working together through the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to consider whether to reinstate the grants via the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act which is currently underway.
If reinstated, the grants could be used to pay the cost of college courses taught in prisons, online or both.
A pilot program instituted during the Obama administration has offered the grants to 12,000 inmates. If Pell grants were again offered throughout the prison population, which currently stands at 1.5 million, it would involve millions of dollars.
However, as noted by the New York Times, "a RAND Corporation study, commissioned by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated students who had access to education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than those who did not. The study also found that for every dollar invested in prison-education programs, at least $4 is saved on incarceration costs."
From a cost-benefit standpoint, therefore, it may make tremendous sense.
Sen. Alexander, however, suggested that it also makes sense for society, and the economy:
"Most prisoners, sooner or later, are released from prison, and no one is helped when they do not have the skills to find a job. Making Pell grants available to them in the right circumstances is a good idea."
Sen. Murray agreed:
"Repealing the ban on Pell grants for prisoners will give those who have paid their debts to society a meaningful second chance, and the ability to get their lives back on track and support themselves and their families once released."
What do you think?
Do you support repealing the ban on Pell grants for prisoners? Why or why not? What other measures would you like to see enacted to address recidivism and re-entry of formerly incarcerated individuals back into the community?
Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!
— Asha Sanaker
(Photo Credit: Prisoneducation.com)
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