Earlier this month the Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) act was re-introduced to congress, proposing that Pell Grant eligibility be reinstated to all incarcerated individuals. This bipartisan bill was presented by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah); and in the House by Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), French Hill (R-Ark), and Jim Banks (R-Ind.). The passage of the REAL act would be a significant victory for enabling higher education in prison and would provide a multitude of benefits to incarcerated scholars. Proven benefits of increasing access to education in prisons include: lower recidivism rates, increased job opportunity, and safer prisons and communities. For a more extensive overview of the benefits of prison education, read here: https://transcendingthrougheducation.wordpress.com/2019/03/28/updates-in-prison-education-2019/.
There has been a nationwide ban on Pell funding in prisons since the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and the Higher Education Reauthorization Act of 1994, which officially declared it illegal for incarcerated individuals to apply for scholarship funding for college classes. This has had a devastating impact on the ability of incarcerated scholars in accessing higher education. Currently, there is a “pilot program” for the REAL act called Second Chance Pell, which runs in 28 states. This program already allows incarcerated individuals to apply for federal Pell funding. However, Rhode Island is not one of the 28 states in which Second Chance Pell operates, and the passage of the REAL act would be a huge victory for higher education in RI.