Washington, D.C. — The Obama administration announced on Friday that the U.S. Department of Education will launch a pilot to test the effects of restoring access to Pell Grants for incarcerated students. This measure will give a limited number of individuals at selected correctional facilities a chance to obtain education and training to prepare for employment upon release. Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement in response:
We applaud the Obama administration for taking this important step. Prison education and training is truly a win-win—boosting formerly incarcerated individuals’ employment rates upon release, substantially decreasing recidivism, and yielding tremendous cost savings in reduced incarceration. In fact, studies show that every dollar spent on prison education saves $4 to $5 in reduced incarceration costs during the next three years, when recidivism is most likely. Yet despite their cost effectiveness, prison education and training programs are far too scarce, in large part because Congress removed access to Pell Grants for inmates in 1994, putting prison education and training out of reach for inmates who want to increase their employability and chances of successful re-entry. The president’s action today will help ensure public safety and give a limited number of individuals in select correctional facilities the chance to obtain the education and training they need to forge a pathway to successful re-entry and to have a meaningful shot at a second chance.
In a recent report from the Center for American Progress, “One Strike and You’re Out,” Rebecca Vallas and Sharon Dietrich address how mass incarceration and criminal records serve as underappreciated drivers of poverty and inequality in America by presenting barriers to employment, housing, education and training, building good credit, and more. The report offers a roadmap of policy recommendations—including calling for testing the restoration of Pell Grants to incarcerated individuals—to ensure that Americans with criminal records have a fair shot at making a decent living, providing for their families, and joining the middle class.
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