Education is our gateway to become a better being, but until now, it was restricted for all the incarcerated inmates in the prison. Knowing the fact, these people need the most education. Around, 41 percent of incarcerated people don’t hold a high school degree.
“The American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 109 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories”, Mass Incarceration report read.
Recently, a new bipartisan bill in Congress will help incarcerated individuals to use federal Pell Grants.
Federal Pell grants are awarded to the people who show the dire need of financial help and have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.
“When we give people in prison an opportunity to earn an education, our communities are safer, taxpayers save money, and we can end the cycle of recidivism,” U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. The bill would “give people a real chance to rebuild their lives,” Schatz said.
Senators introduced the Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act, that would restore Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals.
“The REAL Act is about breaking the cycle of recidivism by increasing access to education for incarcerated individuals. By restoring Pell Grant assistance that can fund educational programs in federal prisons, we will empower individuals to better themselves through education and find career paths once they reenter society,” Senator Durbin said.
In 2016, Vera Institute of Justice asked for the reinstatement of Pell grants to incarcerated prisoners. It reported that 50% of the prisoners will get employment if some education is being provided to them.
“The benefits are not only for the people leaving prison but for the communities that they’re returning to,” says Nick Turner, president of the Vera Institute.
Seeing the effort of Vera Institute getting steam, President Barack Obama introduced the Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative, which funded 67 educational institutions to provide degrees or certificates to around $5,000 incarcerated students.
Until 1994, it was being given to inmates to earn a college degree but afterward, it was banned for incarcerated individuals. It was banned by Congress and President Bill Clinton when they passed Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act to get tough on prisoners.
“Both Democrats and Republicans had a hand in creating the problem back in ’94,” says Jesse Kelley, who studies criminal justice at R Street, a conservative-leaning research firm. “So now everybody’s like, ‘OK well, we all already agree that something needs to be fixed. So let’s just do this.’ “