Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation
imageWhen men and women go to college in prison, they often do not return to the world of crime.rosefirerising, CC BY-NC

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and US Attorney General Loretta Lynch are expected to make a momentous announcement on Friday on the experimental reopening of Pell grant eligibility for some people in custody in federal correctional facilities.

Federal Pell grants provide money for college that, unlike loans, does not need to be repaid. Pell eligibility for prisoners was closed down in 1994, when then-President Bill Clinton signed what was arguably the toughest crime bill in the history of the United States. Soon thereafter, most college-in-prison programs closed their doors as well.

The few that remained in operation during the intervening 21 years were able to do so only through their continuous efforts to raise funds from generous private donors and a handful of philanthropic foundations.

After I left Harvard in 2007, where I had been a faculty member and dean of the Graduate School of Education, I became deeply involved in the prison program at Bard College, New York.

Known as the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), this program is arguably the largest and most comprehensive college-in-prison program in the US. If offers associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in six New York State prisons, sponsors a robust reentry program and anchors a consortium of liberal arts colleges across nine states that also operate prison program.

I know from personal experience what repeated independent evaluations have also shown: men and women who go to college in prison do not return to prison after their release.

College degree reduces recidivism

Studies show that between 50% and 70% of all released prisoners return to prison within three years.

However, this rate drops drastically among alumni of college-in-prison programs. Among Bard alumni who have earned a degree while being in the prison, the return rate is only 2%. Similar results have been seen in another New York college-in-prison program – Hudson Link boasts equally low numbers.

imageCollege programs for prisoners bring many benefits.Craig Sunter - Thanx 3 Million ;-)), CC BY-ND

These same results have been seen in formal studies as well. A 2013 study conducted by researchers at the RAND Corporation found that among prisoners who had been involved in any kind of “correctional education” (basic literacy, GED or college), the return rate was 12.9% lower than the return rate for prisoners not involved in education.

One significant result is that by cutting recidivism, college programs can cut prison costs. Studies indicate that even a 10% decrease could save all the 50 states combined US$635 million in only one year.

States vary in their recidivism rates and their prison costs. Therefore, the amount they could save by cutting recidivism differs. However, even if the 10 states with the greatest potential cost cut their recidivism rate by 10%, the savings could be $470 million in one year.

Providing educational opportunity makes sense

Investing in college access for prisoners is not only cost-effective, but has other benefits as well.

Reports reviewed by a National Research Council committee show it can reduce the boredom and monotony that can trigger violence in prisons. More generally, it can reduce the “criminogenic effects” of incarceration, or the effect of the prison environment.

Enabling people to go to college while in prison also has positive effects on the children of those prisoners, encouraging them to follow their parents to college rather than to prison.

Last but not least, opening the doors of college to people living behind bars aligns our criminal justice policies and practices with the moral commitments of a democratic society. And it makes us fulfill our obligation to the universal right of equality of educational opportunity.

Why prisoners should have college access

The earlier argument against providing access to prisoners centered on questions of fairness – whether it was fair for an incarcerated individual to go to college at public expense when so many people on the outside could not afford to go or struggled to pay the costs.

Pell access was denied to prisoners as part of the “let’s get tough on crime” sentiment that fueled the war on drugs, led to harsh sentencing policies, and all else that fed mass incarceration.

That argument is now losing steam. Today, people on both the right and the left are calling for reform. The Obama administration is leading the way, and “college for all” has become a realistic possibility.

In fact, President Obama has introduced a bill called “America’s College Promise” that would make two years of college free for all who are eligible to attend. Private groups such as Complete College America are adding to the chorus. The US is moving toward making at least the first years of college as universally accessible as high school.

Friday’s announcement will greatly advance this cause. No doubt, some will criticize the action. But they need to be reminded that virtually all people in prison will come home someday. And they will become our neighbors.

It makes sense to ensure that these people are able to return to society, be able to work and become responsible citizens. Going to college can help that happen.

Pell eligibility for prisoners is in our own best interest.

Ellen Condliffe Lagemann does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/here-is-why-it-makes-sense-to-reopen-access-to-pell-grants-for-prisoners-45476

Writers Wanted

Why this Queensland election is different — states are back at the forefront of political attention

arrow_forward

Cervical, breast, heart, bowel: here’s what women should be getting screened regularly

arrow_forward

Will I or won't I? Scientists still haven't figured out free will, but they're having fun trying

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Business News

AppDynamics Solves Visibility Gap Between Traditional Infrastructure and Cloud Environments

New Full Stack Observability Platform, Integration With Cisco Intersight Workload Optimizer and Cloud Native Visualisation Features Provide Cross Domain Insights and Analytics of Business Perfor...

Hotwire Global - avatar Hotwire Global

Why Your Small Business Should Bulk Buy Hand Sanitiser

As a small business owner, employee and customer safety is at the very top of your priority list. From risk assessments to health and safety officers, appropriate signage and proper briefing...

News Co - avatar News Co

How Phone Number Search In Sydney Can Help Your Business

To run a successful business, keeping track of your company and competitors are the major factors. With a lot of tools, available businesses have options to stay current. One way in which busine...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion