JustLeadershipUSA Endorses Legislation to Restore Pell Grants to Incarcerated Students

April 9, 2019

Washington, D.C. — Earlier today, Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act, which would restore access to Pell Grants for incarcerated people.

In 1994, under the Clinton Administration, The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (known as the 1994 Crime Bill) banned incarcerated people from receiving Pell grants — a decision that prompted the majority of college programs in prisons to shut down. As cited by College & Community Fellowship, in New York State alone, the number of in-prison college programs fell from 70 to four after the law was passed.

As an organization led by formerly incarcerated and directly impacted people, JustLeadershipUSA is particularly cognizant of the enormous impact education can have on the lives of system-involved people.

A recent report provided additional evidence to support what communities impacted by the criminal legal system already know. People who have access to educational programs while incarcerated are more likely to find employment after they return home and are less likely to experience reincarceration. Additionally, states save an average of $7.6 million in incarceration costs per year when educational opportunities are expanded — savings that should be reinvested into directly impacted communities.

DeAnna Hoskins, President & CEO of JustLeadershipUSA stated, “Education is a gateway to opportunity for people who are or have suffered the effects of incarceration and reprehensible racist policies and is a basic human right for all. To deny someone the chance to expand their educational opportunities while in prison is to perpetuate the systemic oppression that has affected our communities for centuries. As we fight for a decarcerated nation, we need legislation that increases opportunities for everyone who is impacted by the failed policies of our criminal legal system. The REAL Act should be passed without delay.”


JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) is a national organization dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in half by 2030. JLUSA empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform.

Alexander Bryden

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