Things are starting to happen quickly now on the vanguard of criminal justice reform, namely, educational opportunities for inmates. On April 20, 2019, National Public Radio reported “Congress Considers Making College More Accessible to People in Prison” by restoring Pell Grants to them. “Inmates are among the least-educated people in America. That’s despite research that shows education is one of the most effective ways to keep people from coming back to prison.” This will be done through the REAL Act (Restoring Education And Learning). The legislation was introduced by US Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill).
From Schatz’s April 9, 2019 website, “The REAL Act would restore a program we know already works and give people a real chance to rebuild their lives.”
Justice-involved people lost access to Pell Grant assistance in 1994 during the President Bill Clinton era when the policy was to “get tough on crime.” As one involved with the law at that time because of my illness, I remember those days. We now have over 2 million people in prison who have no hope and no future. President Obama’s Education Department announced an experiment in 2015 called Second Chance Pell. This current legislation is meant to rectify the problem with the statistic being (from Schatz) “that people who participate in correctional education while in prison were 43% less likely to recidivate… [S]tudies have shown that each dollar spent on secondary education programs for prisoners reduces incarceration costs by $4 to $5 during the first three years after an individual is released.”
In late 2018 (when he wrote to me and told me he was going to do it) President Trump signed a criminal justice reform bill called the First Step Act.
This is good. Let’s hope to see the results we want.