Report: Pell Grants for people in prison could reduce recidivism, lower state expenditures, boost business

A new report from Vera Institute of Justice and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality finds that lifting the federal ban on Pell Grants for incarcerated people would increase formerly incarcerated students’ employment rates by 10 percent, grow the pool of skilled workers for employers to hire from, and reduce recidivism rates.

“The federal ban on Pell grants for incarcerated people is a relic of the ‘tough on crime’ era and has no place in an America that overwhelmingly supports common-sense criminal justice reform,” Nick Turner, Vera Institute of Justice president, said in a statement. He adds that increasing access to higher education would increase opportunity, thereby reducing recidivism and helping to break “a link that has disproportionately trapped too many people of color in generational cycles of poverty and incarceration.”

According to the research, restoring federal Pell Grants for incarcerated persons would increase combined earnings for formerly incarcerated people by $45.3 million in just the first year after release. It would also reduce state prison spending by $7.6 million annually through a reduction in recidivism rates of nearly half.

“Congress’s 24-year old decision to single out and deny Pell Grants to otherwise eligible students in prison has shown itself to be pennywise and pound-foolish,” Indi Dutta-Gupta, co-executive director of the Georgetown Center, said in a statement. “We know with confidence that this policy harms these students, their families, their communities, public safety, state economies and employers. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a more beneficial way for people to spend time in prison than advancing their education.”

Learn more on the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality website.

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