Join the Campaign to Restore Pell Grant Eligibility for Incarcerated Individuals

June 30, 2010 - 2:07pm


When the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 eliminated the eligibility of persons incarcerated in federal or state prisons to receive Federal Pell Grant awards, it dismantled one of the most effective and cost-beneficial correctional policies in the United States. Reversing this prohibition would restore access to higher education funding to a portion of the prison population and potentially revive many of the postsecondary correctional higher education programs lost after the passage of the prohibition.  Restoration of funding would allow the Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria to again reflect the original legislative intent of promoting access to postsecondary education by providing need-based grants to low-income students.

The call to action is addressed to members of Congress.  Several members of Congress have expressed an interest in restoring Pell Grant eligibility to the incarcerated.  We must gather a coalition to endorse legislative action and provide a robust list of supporters to ensure legislative action by Congress.  The petition we are asking you to sign – in the form of a letter to members of Congress – will provide Congress with the essential show of support from leading organizations and citizens who support restoration of Pell Grant eligibility.

Please show your support for the work of the Education from the Inside Out Coalition, and their campaign to restore higher education funding.

Know the Facts:

  • The Federal Pell Grant Program was established almost 40 years ago to promote access to higher education by providing low-income students with need-based grants to help fund their educations. 
  • For prisoners, access to Pell Grants was restricted in 1994 with the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.  The Act prohibited federal and states prison inmates from receiving Pell Grants for the length of their incarceration.  
  • The passage of the Act effectively dismantled the most successful and cost-beneficial correctional program in the United States.  
  • Prior to the passage of the Act, there were 350 postsecondary education correctional programs in operation in the United States. Today only several dozen programs exist. 
  • At the height of their use, Pell Grants awarded to prisoners represented less than 1/6 of 1% of total amount of the grants awarded. 
  • According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, two thirds of the people released from prison each year are re-arrested.  Half are re-incarcerated within three years of their release.  
  • Studies have shown that participation in a postsecondary correctional education program can reduce recidivism, thus ending the cycle of imprisonment and restoring families and communities through the power of education. 
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