Statement From Formerly Incarcerated Criminal Justice Reform Advocate, Glenn E. Martin On Announcement By President Obama To Give Pell Grants To 12,000 Incarcerated Students

June 24, 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016 (NEW YORK) – Glenn E. Martin, Founder and President of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s announcement to give Pell Grant access to over 12,000 incarcerated students.

As someone who went to college in prison and earned a quality 2-year Liberal Arts degree, I know personally that providing incarcerated students with access to higher education reduces recidivism and the related costs of crime and imprisonment, and increases opportunities for employment after release. Education transforms lives, reduces poverty, and strengthens communities. When formerly incarcerated persons gain employment, they are far less likely to rely on public assistance. Governments, in turn, can divert funds that would have been used to build and maintain correctional facilities to other areas, such as public education or job training.”

Under current law, prison systems seeking to provide postsecondary education as part of their rehabilitation programs face a significant resource limitation: since 1994, incarcerated persons are banned from receiving Federal Pell Grants. For more than 40 years, the goal of the Pell Grant program has been to provide need-based assistance to students to promote access to higher education. Funding flows directly to the educational institution, and eligibility for aid is based on student need and expected family contribution. Pell Grants are available to anyone who qualifies; thus, removing the barrier to eligibility for incarcerated persons does not diminish the opportunity of any other eligible student to receive aid. It simply ensures that all qualified low-income students who are motivated to pursue higher education have equal access to aid.

The $30 million Second Chance Pell Grant pilot program, announced by President Obama today, will be available to inmates at 141 state and federal correctional institutions, who will be able to use a federal Pell grant of up to $5,815 to pursue a two- or four-year degree from one of 67 approved colleges and universities.

“Nationally, corrections cost $80 billion each year.  It is important that President Obama took such an important and courageous step today to bring higher education back to prisons across our nation.  Today I stand with my fellow impacted leaders, advocates, civil rights leaders, and clergy to congratulate President Obama on leading the way on once again making access to college education in prisons a reality.  Now, hopefully, Congress will abandon its politics-over-polcy tribalism and muster the courage to correct this 22 year-old failed policy.”

–Glenn E. Martin, founder and President, JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA)

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CONTACT: Valrie Fowler, valrie@jlusa.org