On Dec. 21, 2020, the Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), was included in the annual omnibus spending bill. With the inclusion of this provision, Pell Grant eligibility will be restored for incarcerated individuals.

The R Street Institute’s Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties policy team has endorsed and advocated for passage of the REAL Act since its introduction.

“A post-secondary education can also produce myriad benefits for society. Children and families of prisoners benefit when parents receive a post-secondary education—it sets new expectations and opens up new possibilities for educational achievement. Communities also benefit when the formerly incarcerated secure jobs, contribute demanded skills to the economy, pay taxes and depend less heavily on social service agencies,” says R Street Institute Fellow Emily Mooney.

Indeed, incarcerated students, the business community and the public all benefit from increased access to postsecondary correctional education. Incarcerated students see gains in reading and math skills, which increase future employability. Additionally, data has shown reduced rates of recidivism among those who participated in education programs.

Government Affairs Manager Jesse Kelley says, “Already, 94 percent of incarcerated adults will be released from prison, and 57 percent will be released within two years. Without access to rehabilitative programs like college in prison, those who have been incarcerated are at a marked disadvantage at successfully rejoining society and the workforce. We applaud Sen. Schatz for his leadership and the bipartisan group of lawmakers who worked for the inclusion of Pell Grant reinstatement in this spending package.”

With returning individuals already facing the lifetime collateral consequences of a criminal record—including impediments to finding a job—equipping them with the power of education will help make the playing field more equal. For more information on Pell Grant reinstatement, please visit the R Street Institute website.

Image credit: LightField Studios