From prison to Pell Grant recipient

Photo source: Karen Bass' Flickr
Photo source: Karen Bass’ Flickr

The Obama Administration’s Education Department has implemented the Second Chance Pell Pilot, which will allow prisoners in both state and federal facilities to pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degree with Pell Grants while imprisoned. Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.), a House Judiciary Committee member, released a statement expressing her support of the effort.

The Education Department announced Friday that the program will allow the participation of select colleges that apply and it will be available for eligible inmates only. According to the department, the purpose of the program is to examine whether enabling Pell Grants to prisoners will reduce recidivism rates and increase employment, NBC News reported.

Bass, who represents the 37th district of California and is committed to strengthening education, agrees that the new program is a step in the right direction.

“I wholeheartedly support the Obama Administration’s announcement today of the Second Chance Pell Pilot program that will allow both state and federal prisoners to access Pell grants,” the congresswoman wrote in an emailed statement. “Allowing prisoners a chance to pursue higher education is good for our communities, good for our national budget, and it is just the right thing to do. President ​Obama is returning us back to where our nation was a few decades ago when we thought that rehabilitation was crucial to ​the criminal justice system, and we provided education opportunities to people ​while they were in prison ​as well as providing financial aid to former offenders ​so they could attend state colleges and universities when they got out.”

Bass touched on how more inmates receiving higher education is bound to improve the nation’s budget. “Returning our focus on rehabilitation will benefit not just the men and women who have done their time once they return home, but our state and national budgets as well,” she stated. “A 2013 RAND Corporation study found that every dollar invested in prison education programs saves $4 to $5 on incarceration costs later.”

She added that the program will push the country to ending the “‘tough on crime’ era that has led to more people in prison for nonviolent crime, prevented former prisoners from being successful when they left jail, and has led to higher recidivism rates.”

“Congress now must follow President Obama’s lead and pass comprehensive criminal justice reform to include legislation that I introduced last year that would roll back the outdated policy that suspended college aid for students who want to pursue a college education after a petty drug offense,” she urged. “Investing in every American’s college education will improve our nation both today and for generations to come.”

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