Prison Fellowship Celebrates Expansion of Second Chance Pell Sites While Urging Congress to Make the Program Permanent
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Prison Fellowship®, the nation's largest Christian nonprofit serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families, applauded the actions of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Friday for expanding Second Chance Pell Sites—providing need-based Pell Grants for thousands of incarcerated students across the country.
Secretary DeVos made the announcement during Prison Fellowship's Second Chance Month. As a result, 67 new schools will be added to the Second Chance Pell Experimental Site Initiative, including a growing number of Christian institutions and historically black colleges and universities. Currently, there are 63 institutions participating—bringing the total number of participating schools to 130. The move also expands the participating jurisdictions from 27 to 43. A RAND study found that participants in correctional education were 48 percent less likely to recidivate.
"Pell Grant access offers people in prison the opportunity to develop new skills and practice living as good citizens inside and outside of prison," said James Ackerman, President and CEO of Prison Fellowship. "Secretary DeVos' action expanding Second Chance Pell sites will solidify her legacy as a leader who stands up for the dignity and potential of 'the least of these’ and fosters safer communities.'"
An amendment to the 1994 Crime Bill made incarcerated students ineligible for Pell Grants, which led to an abrupt, dramatic decline of post-secondary education offerings in American prisons. Today, the incarcerated students accepted at one of the Department of Education's Second Chance Experimental Sites are the only prisoners with access to Pell Grants. Since 2016, the initiative has provided higher education opportunities to over 16,989 incarcerated men and women.
"Lawmakers should take a page from the Secretary's playbook and move the ball down the field," said Heather Rice-Minus, Vice President of Government Affairs and Church Mobilization. "Before the end of the calendar year, we hope to see Congress finally take action to make Pell Grants available to men and women who are serving their time and working toward a second chance."
THE SECOND CHANCE PELL EXPERIMENTAL SITE INITIATIVE
The Second Chance Pell Experimental Site Initiative is meant to identify higher education innovations worthy of congressional action. Secretary DeVos' announcement today will increase the reach of the experimental sites, but bipartisan legislation (the REAL Act) would ensure more permanent restoration of Pell eligibility for incarcerated students and allow more incarcerated students to access post-secondary education.
Prison Fellowship, the National District Attorneys Association, the Correctional Leaders Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and numerous partners all agree—Pell restoration would be a meaningful step in our progress towards safer communities and a culture of second chances.
This past fall, Secretary DeVos spoke to church leaders, preparing to lobby Congress on Pell restoration, at an event hosted by Prison Fellowship. "Education is the ticket to the future for just about anyone and everyone," the Secretary stated. "So, we should be embracing these opportunities for brothers and sisters who are behind bars ..."