New Education Secretary Should Prioritize Pell Grant Implementation For People In Prison

Newly Confirmed Secretary of Education Miguel CardonaMiguel CardonaThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Alibaba – Democrats discuss price ahead of policy amid rush on overnight healthcare – Presented by Indivior – CDC panel approves boosters for some, but not on the basis Jobs Education Secretary Says COVID-19 Vaccines Should Be Mandatory for Eligible Students CONTINUED made some compelling promises during his confirmation hearing: namely that he would prioritize closing the equity gap and making education more accessible to all students. One of the most immediate ways to achieve this goal is to ensure that eligibility for Pell Grants for Incarcerated Students is implemented as quickly as possible before the 2023 deadline. and their families’ lives are counting on him to help them end the ban on Pell scholarships for those incarcerated in the past. Congress has done its part in lifting of the ban at the end of December, and it’s now up to Cardona and her team to focus on implementation.

It’s important to understand how exactly overturning this 26-year ban will change lives. The Vera Institute of Justice, along with the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, found in a 2019 report that lifting the ban increase employment among those formerly incarcerated by 10 percent, on average. The researchers also found that reducing recidivism rates would save states $ 365.8 million per year due to fewer people returning to prison. At a time when many state and municipal budgets are being squeezed due to the disastrous effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, these cost savings will be extremely critical.

The ban on Pell scholarships for incarcerated people was one of many nefarious policies inherited from the punitive “tough on crime” era that prevented many inmates from continuing their education. For example: Blacks make up 13 percent of the American population, but they make up over a third of the people in the criminal justice system. Restoring access to Pell Grants will help address and correct an unfair policy that perpetuates racial inequalities.

It is those who have been directly affected by Pell’s ban and who have bravely stepped forward to share their personal stories with others who deserve to be celebrated as the true champions of this winning policy. People like Boris Franklin, who spent 11 years incarcerated in the New Jersey prison system. Boris was fortunate enough to gain access to the state-funded NJ-STEP program, which allowed him to continue his studies in sociology at Rutgers University while being behind bars and eventually getting a job where he continues to push for criminal justice reform at local, state level. and federal.

The power of education for incarcerated people and the potential it has to disrupt the entire enterprise of mass incarceration cannot be overstated. Because our criminal justice system disproportionately harms blacks and blacks, restoring access to Pell scholarships for all incarcerated students will also be be a way to overcome structural obstacles that have trapped too many people of color in generational cycles of poverty and incarceration. These cycles should be broken as more and more people can now pursue university studies behind bars.

Now it’s up to Cardona to follow through and get to work to implement the long overdue changes so that access to Pell Grants for incarcerated people, and therefore the promise of post-secondary education, becomes a reality. . We would like the secretary to assign a senior person to guide the implementation of Pell’s reinstatement. The law also directs correctional agencies to select the colleges that will be allowed to work in their facilities. Agencies will need guidance on how to select programs that work “in the best interests of the students” as required by law. Cardona should provide actionable guidelines for these correctional agencies to reference in their selections, including guarantees to ensure that the programs are of high quality and have a clear path to a bachelor’s degree. The Office of Federal Student Aid should also designate a contact person to help incarcerated people overcome problems accessing financial aid, such as dealing with delinquent student loans.

Providing access to Pell Grants to incarcerated people may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of the world we face today, but for the about half of all Americans whose family member has been put behind bars, this is an important step. This bipartisan victory at a time of deep division in our country should also give justice reform advocates everywhere the confidence to know that future reforms are possible. Families depend on it.

Nick Turner is President and Director of the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice in New York City, which was established in 1961 to work with government, civic leaders, and communities affected by criminal and immigration legal systems. to implement the change. Follow him on Twitter @ NickTurner718.

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About Todd Wurtsbach

Todd Wurtsbach

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