The Pell Grant program, a Federal grant for students with financial need, has been expanded to include individuals enrolled in participating programs while in prison. This is a huge step forward to breaking the cycle of recidivism and helping incarcerated people successfully re-enter society.
What the Re-introduction of Second Chance Pell Grants means for Incarcerated People
Recently, the U.S. Department of Education announced actions to help incarcerated individuals access educational programs as part of the broader efforts to support reentry and empower formerly incarcerated people. This was passed under the Trump-Pence administration and implemented under the Biden-Harris administration.
A vital component of these efforts is the reintroduction of Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals, which have been shown to have a significant impact on reducing recidivism and helping formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reintegrate into society. The Pell Grant program is a Federal grant for students with financial need, which has recently been expanded to include individuals enrolled in participating programs while in prison. This is a huge step forward to breaking the cycle of recidivism and helping incarcerated people successfully re-enter society.
This expansion lets all schools, not just the few schools allowed in the previous Second Chance Pell pilot program, participate in the Pell Program, widening access to funds for higher education for incarcerated learners nationwide.
One of the biggest criticisms of the outcomes of the justice system is the high rate of recidivism. A recent study shows that up to 76.6% of released prisoners are rearrested within five years, based on the state, population, and other factors (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2021). Without the skills and knowledge required to hold a job and make a living, many formerly incarcerated people end up reoffending or living on the streets.
Education has been proven to be an effective way to combat recidivism. The Northwestern Prison Education program reports a “43% reduction in recidivism rates for those prisoners who participate in prison education programs.” By gaining skills relevant to today’s workforce, incarcerated people are more likely to have a successful re-entry to society.
“Helping formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reintegrate into society is not only beneficial for our communities, but it's also the right thing to do,” says Nucleos CEO Noah Freedman. “It gives these individuals a chance to turn their lives around and contribute positively to society. By providing access to post-secondary education for people in prison, we can equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed once they are released. Additionally, this approach can lead to significant savings in government spending, allowing us to prioritize critical services that benefit everyone.” The Vera Institute of Justice says that post-secondary education for people in prison could reduce spending by as much as $365.8 million.
Nucleos can help Departments of Corrections access Pell Grants. The Nucleos Learning Platform gives its learners access to various educational and vocational training opportunities, including associate and bachelor's degree programs, as well as supporting learning management systems and services for in-person college programs.. The Pell grant program's reintroduction for incarcerated learners, announced in April 2022, is set to be available again in July 2023.
The reintroduction of Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals is an investment in the future. It is an opportunity to break cycles of recidivism, reduce crime and homelessness, and empower individuals to succeed after incarceration. By providing access to education for individuals who are incarcerated, a safer, smarter, and more productive society can be built.