President Bill Clinton may have benefited from a number of second chances himself over the course of his career. But when he was in office, he was still no friend of prisoners' rights.
Back in 1994, Clinton signed a law denying prisoners access to the Pell Grants — access that had previously made a college education possible behind bars. The impact of this disastrous stroke of the pen is still felt today, as prisoners struggle to access an education and prisons likewise struggle to fill the education gap with thin budgets and the help of nonprofits. Since Clinton denied Pell Grants to those in prison, the number of college programs available to prisoners — even to those who want to pay — has dropped from 350 to just a handful.
Today, though, as more states move toward exploring innovative approaches to reduce crime, recidivism and incarceration — the climate is right to restore prisoner access to Pell Grants.
Call on Congress today to remove the restriction on federal Pell Grants for prisoners. The cost is minimal, and we'll all benefit, as prisoners will return to society with potential and motivation to contribute.
Michael Santos, a federal prisoner who blogs regularly in this space, wrote last fall at his Prison News Blog that Pell Grants helped him obtain a bachelor's and master's degree and prepared him to build a life after prison (a day he's still waiting for after serving 23 years in prison for drug trafficking). Santos has seen Pell Grants help many prisoners, and now he sees a federal prison system that virtually guarantees recidivism by denying educational opportunities to those it keeps locked up.
As he wrote, "Those who have committed the discipline necessary to earn high-level academic credentials stand much more prepared to contribute to society in meaningful ways. Those contributions lead to higher earnings and more tax revenues for society. Offering high-level academic programs to those in prison represent a wise investment of public funds. Only the foolish would choose to invest in more prison cells."
Join Change.org members and take action today: Le'ts urge Congress to teach our way out of the nation's sprawling prison system.
Photo Credit: Werwin15