Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) President Mark Ojakian and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal today called for Congressional action to repeal the quarter-century-old ban on inmates from receiving federal Pell Grants. A recent study by the Vera Institute for Justice found that Connecticut could save over $3.5 million annually if the ban was ended.
In 2016, four of Connecticut community colleges were among 67 schools selected nationally to be part of the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program which allows eligible individuals to access Pell funding while incarcerated. As part of the pilot, Anuntuck, Middlesex, Quinebaug and Three Rivers Community Colleges began offering combinations of classroom-based instruction and online education, at nearby corrections facilities.
“Ensuring that incarcerated individuals have the necessary tools to succeed once they are released from prison is not just the right thing to do – connecting inmates to quality educational services will actually save taxpayer money and make our communities safer,” President Ojakian said. “The Second Chance Pilot Program has been a resounding success in Connecticut, giving people who had previously been left behind the opportunity to improve their lives and become contributing members of our society. I hope that Congress will look at Connecticut’s success and take action to end the prohibition on Pell Grants for people who are incarcerated. I thank Senator Blumenthal for his leadership on this issue.”
“The Second Chance Pell Pilot Program opens doors for thousands of incarcerated individuals looking to access a quality education,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Such programs restoring Pell Grant eligibility give people a chance to earn and succeed, reducing recidivism and incarceration costs—saving taxpayer money and making our communities safer places to live.”
As of the end of the spring 2018 semester – the most recent data currently available – the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program has helped 962 Connecticut students pursue a postsecondary education, with 61 of them having completed a certificate or degree.
“Asnuntuck is proud to be participating in this pilot program,” Asnuntuck Community College President James P. Lombella said. “This program and its graduates have proved that by offering education to an individual, the benefits can be immense. Students, their families, communities, and businesses in our state are all stronger and more productive as a result of this program.”
The 1994 crime bill banned incarcerated individuals from accessing Pell funding. The Vera Institute’s report finds that repealing the ban would lead to a decline in recidivism and would ultimately save states more than $365 million per year.
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