Washington, D.C. — Today, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), joined by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), introduced the REAL Act, which would reinstate Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals. Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives alongside Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN), French Hill (R-AR), and Barbara Lee (D-CA). Congress, as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994—popularly known as the crime bill—unwisely banned incarcerated individuals from receiving Pell Grants. The REAL Act would reverse this ban and once again make higher education accessible to this population. Ed Chung, vice president for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement in response:
The Center for American Progress applauds the bicameral reintroduction of the REAL Act. Ninety-five percent of people incarcerated in state prisons will return to their communities. Reversing the ban on Pell Grants and making higher education accessible to all who want to pursue their educational goals will better set up individuals for success post-incarceration.
Studies show that making higher education available to incarcerated individuals is cost-effective, lowers recidivism, and increases post-incarceration employment while reducing poverty. It also reduces violence in prisons, which creates a safer environment for those incarcerated as well as corrections staff. The REAL Act recognizes this and ensures that Pell Grants will be available to all those who are eligible, regardless of their sentence. Brent J. Cohen, executive director of Generation Progress, added:
Making Pell Grants accessible to all means that even those who are not released from prison will have an opportunity to improve their lives—and the lives of those around them—through education. Higher education can be transformational for people in all settings and is magnified for people in prison where opportunities are scarce. Providing Pell Grants to incarcerated students decreases violence inside facilities and is one of the most effective ways to equip people for a successful return to their home communities.
For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick gro.sergorpnacirema@kcisucj or 202-495-3682.