[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) in introducing the Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act, a bill that would restore Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals in order to cut the cycle of recidivism, save taxpayer money, and improve safety.
“The REAL Act would make a real difference in people’s lives,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Restoring Pell Grant eligibility gives incarcerated individuals the opportunity to earn an education and succeed. This common sense legislation will go a long way in reducing recidivism and incarceration costs--- saving taxpayer money and making our communities safer places to live.”
Blumenthal and Schatz’s legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
In 1994, incarcerated individuals lost access to Pell Grant assistance, causing a significant drop in the number of education programs in prisons. The REAL Act would restore access to these grants, which would reduce recidivism and incarceration costs by increasing access to higher education.
The national recidivism rate is 43.3 percent within three years, but higher education can have a dramatic impact on reducing that rate. A widely cited study conducted by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice found that higher education reduced recidivism to just 13.7 percent for formerly incarcerated individuals who earned an associate’s degree, 5.6 percent for those earning a bachelor’s degree, and less than 1 percent for those earning a master’s degree.
In addition, studies have shown that each dollar spent on secondary education programs for prisoners reduces incarceration costs by $4 to $5 during the first three years after an individual is released. It has been estimated that an investment of $1 million in prison education programs prevents approximately 600 crimes, while the same amount of funding would only prevent approximately 350 crimes if invested in incarceration alone.
The REAL Act has been endorsed by nearly 60 public safety, civil rights, and educational organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for American Progress, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Association of State Correctional Administrators, American Correctional Association, Association of State and Federal Directors of Correctional Education, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Prison Fellowship, Drug Policy Alliance, JustLeadershipUSA, and Education from the Inside Out Coalition. A full list of organizations supporting the REAL Act is available here.