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Second Chance Pell Pilot Program Will Bring College to 12,000 Prisoners

On June 24, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced that 67 colleges and universities had been selected to offer courses to imprisoned students at over 100 federal and state prisons through the DOE’s recently-implemented Second Chance Pell Pilot Program.

The majority of the courses will be provided through public two-year and four-year postsecondary schools. Some plan to offer on-site classes within correctional facilities, while others plan a hybrid approach – a combination of classroom instruction and online coursework – and some will offer online-only curricula.

According to a DOE press release, “The selected sites demonstrated a focus on supporting successful reentry. Many did this by evaluating the local labor market and providing educational programs that would prepare students with the training and credentials to improve their prospects for employment post-release.” Additional academic, career and social support systems are an added benefit offered by many of the participating schools.

PLN previously reported that the research backing the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program is convincing. According to a 2013 RAND Corporation study, prisoners who participate in educational programs are 43% less likely to recidivate within three years of release than those who do not engage in such programs, and are 13% more likely to obtain employment following release. [See: PLN, June 2016, p.28].

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. said the Second Chance initiative will not affect funding for non-incarcerated students who are eligible for Pell grants. The pilot program will provide approximately $30 million in funding for prisoners, which, according to King, represents less than 0.1% of the overall $30 billion Pell grant program. “The evidence is clear,” he said. “Promoting the education and job training for incarcerated individuals makes communities safer by reducing recidivism and saves taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration.”


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