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Arkansas Governor Addresses Prisoners at College Graduation Ceremony

by Scott Grammer

On November 30, 2018, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson addressed 25 prisoners who had received Associate of Arts degrees from Shorter College. According to a press release, “In an effort to reduce rates of recidivism, [the Second Chance Act] provides need-based Pell grants to people in state and federal prisons through partnerships with 67 colleges in 27 states. Shorter is one of only two institutions in Arkansas selected to pilot the initiative.”

The press release cited President Trump’s Executive Order 13779, which “promotes excellence and innovation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and provides equitable opportunities for HBCUs to participate in federal programs, such as Second Chance.”

“The 25 inmates who have earned an associate degree will have a bona fide second chance at life because they will return to freedom with an education and skills they didn’t have when they entered prison,” Governor Hutchinson stated. “They will leave with the pride of this accomplishment and the confidence that they can succeed in life. Thanks to the Pell Grant program and Shorter College, these men and women have the opportunity to improve life for their families and their community.”

Arkansas DOC director Wendy Kelley added, “The Department of Corrections congratulates the inmates who are graduating from Shorter College; and we look forward to continuing our work with Shorter College, ASU-Newport, and Ashland University (OH) during the 2nd Chance Pell Pilot Program which provides a meaningful opportunity for change to participating inmates.”

The new Pell grant program for incarcerated students was implemented during the Obama administration. [See: PLN, Oct. 2016, p.45; June 2016, p.28]. Pell grants for prisoners were discontinued in 1994 as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. 

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Source: Shorter College Press Release

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