Three U.S. senators have introduced legislation that seeks to restore Pell Grant eligibility for individuals behind bars.
The Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act, introduced on Tuesday by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), seeks to end a two-decade long ban imposed on Pell Grant assistance for incarcerated individuals.
The senators cited a drop in the number of educational programs in prisons as a reason to introduce the legislation, and said that if passed, it could reduce both recidivism rates and incarceration costs.
The REAL Act would restore access to these grants, which would reduce recidivism and incarceration costs by increasing access to higher education.
“The REAL Act is about breaking the cycle of recidivism by increasing access to education for incarcerated individuals,” Durbin said in a statement. “By restoring Pell Grant assistance that can fund educational programs in federal prisons, we will empower individuals to better themselves through education and find career paths once they reenter society.”
According to a Rand Corporation report, inmates who participate in educational programs while in prison are 43 percent less likely to recidivate than those who do not.
Schatz said that giving prisoners the opportunity to receive an education can also save taxpayer money and make communities safer.
“The REAL Act would restore a program we know already works and give people a real chance to rebuild their lives,” Schatz said.
The bill has received support from various originations including the Association of State Correctional Administrators, the Association of State and Federal Directors of Correctional Education, the American Correctional Association, the Correctional Education Association, and the American Council on Education.