New federal pilot project restores Pell Grants for prisoners

Pell GrantsAlthough a college education is not for everyone, it can be a very beneficial use of the time that many people spend behind bars. To help inmates cover the cost of that education, the Obama Administration created the Second Chance Pell pilot program, with 67 participating colleges and universities announced late last month.

Pell Grants are given by the U.S. federal government to students with financial need and they do not need to be repaid. Before 1995 prisoners had access to these grants, but the passage of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act brought an end to the practice. Over the years there have been efforts to restore them, and more than two decades later, Pell Grants for prisoners are back again.

The colleges and universities chosen to participate will partner with more than 100 federal and state penal institutions to enroll roughly 12,000 incarcerated students in educational and training programs. These institutions may provide federal Pell Grants to qualified students who are incarcerated and are likely to be released within five years of enrolling in coursework.

“Access to high quality education is vital to ensuring that justice-involved individuals have an opportunity to reclaim their lives and restore their futures,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

“Through this partnership with the Department of Education and institutions of higher learning around the country, this program will help give deserving incarcerated individuals the skills to live lives of purpose and contribute to society upon their release.”

Most programs classroom-based

Most of the schools are public two-year and four-year institutions that will offer classroom-based instructions on-site at various corrections facilities. Others plan to offer online education or a combination of both classroom and online instruction. About 37 percent of the schools will offer prison-based education for the first time. Although it depends on the institution, schools could begin offering education and training programs as early as July 1.

The colleges and universities selected for the pilot project include Auburn University in Alabama, Bennington College in Vermont, California State University Los Angeles, Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College in Minnesota, Marymount Manhattan College in New York, Rutgers in New Jersey and Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma, among many others.

Research has proved that educating prisoners pays off. A 2013 study from the RAND Corp., funded by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who did not participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.

Recognizing the economic and social benefits of education for prisoners, the Pell Grant pilot project will build on the Obama Administration’s commitment to create a fairer and more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on families and communities through educational opportunity.

 

National Reentry Week hosts events around the nation

reentry

Attorney General Loretta Lynch

For those of you who don’t already know it, this week – April 24-30 – is the first ever National Reentry Week.

The designation was established by the U.S. Department of Justice, which says that the week is part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to make the U.S. criminal justice system fairer, more efficient and more effective at reducing recidivism.

“Too often, justice-involved individuals who have paid their debt to society confront daunting obstacles to good jobs, decent housing, adequate health care, quality education, and even the right to vote,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.

“National Reentry Week highlights the many ways that the Department of Justice – and the entire Obama Administration – is working to tear down the barriers that stand between returning citizens and a meaningful second chance – leading to brighter futures, stronger communities, and a morej just and equal nation for all.”

Lynch, along with U.S. Department. of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, will travel to Philadelphia on Monday, April 25, to hold events with public housing advocates, legal services providers and community leaders. Later in the week she will visit a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility in Talladega, Ala., to highlight reentry programs in prison.

Reentry events in all 50 states and elsewhere

Other events are taking place in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices alone are hosting more than 200 events, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons more than 370 events.

Among the events organized by the White House and the Department of Justice:

  • On Monday, April 25, the White House will hold an event with the Brennan Center on the costs of incarceration.
  • On Monday, April 25, Director Lisa Foster of the Office for Access Justice will hold a joint event in Los Angeles with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to announce new efforts to improve outcomes for justice-involved youth. She will also attend a Conviction and Sentence Alternatives (CASA) Program Graduation Ceremony in Los Angeles.
  • On Tuesday, April 26, Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason of the Office of Justice Programs will attend a girls mentoring event at a local detention facility. The event is sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
  • On Tuesday, April 26, Second Chance Fellow Daryl Atkinson of the Office of Justice Programs will deliver remarks at a reentry simulation in Birmingham sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama.
  • On Wednesday, April 27, the White House will host the Fair Chance Opportunities Champions of Change event in South Court Auditorium. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch will deliver remarks and Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates will moderate a panel at the event.
  • On Thursday, April 28, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division will deliver remarks at a reentry event at Mickey Leland Transitional Housing Facility, sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
  • On Friday, April 29, Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson of the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women will visit a federal women’s prison in West Virginia.
  • On Friday, April 29, the United States Department of Labor will host a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Federal Bonding Program. Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates will deliver remarks at the event.