Inmates Get Pell Grants

By Lindsey Buttel 8/2/2015

Prison Inmates

It is an experimental program to help those behind bars.

The Obama administration has decided to give educational Pell Grants to a select group of prison inmates studying college courses. This trial will be the first step to end the 20 year ban of federal student loans to prisoners.

The program is called the Second Chance Pell Pilot in hopes of giving prisoners exactly that – a second chance. The experiment allows select low-income prisoners to take classes with no debt for three to five years. It is still unsure how many inmates will be included in this experiment or how much it will cost.

This all comes with controversy. Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander sits on the Education Committee. He claims that President Obama has no legal right to give aid to prisoners without Congress’ approval. But, the Higher Education Act allows experiments to be done before actually being put into law. Other Republicans argue that prisoners should get on-the-job training for blue collar work rather than use tax money to receive a college education.

The program not only helps rehabilitate prisoners but also aims to cut prison costs by reducing the number of reoffenders. This hypothesis comes from the 2013 Rand study which found that those who were involved in prison education programs were 43 percent less likely to end up in jail within three years of being released and 13 percent more likely to find a job within a year of being released.

This is part of the Obama Administration’s many steps to change America’s justice system. Already, President Obama has granted amnesty to 46 nonviolent, drug-related convicts, urged employers not to ask about past convictions when conducting a job interview, and pushed for mandatory minimum sentences to be either reduced or abolished.