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Report: Work Remains to Ensure Postsecondary Education Access in Prison

Each state, the Bureau of Prisons, and Puerto Rico now have a process in place for assessing prison education programs proposals from colleges, according to a report released by the Vera Institute of Justice.

Dr. Ruth DelaneyDr. Ruth DelaneyIt means that hundreds of thousands of people in prison may potentially have access to quality college programming and the funds to complete postsecondary education credentials.

The First Year of Pell Restoration: A Snapshot of Quality, Equity, and Scale in Prison Education Programs” provides insight into the strengths and weaknesses of state and local corrections agencies and their college partners work toward establishing prison education programs.

“While the report highlights many areas for improvement, it also shows that innovation is happening in all kinds of states — from red to blue, with prison populations that range in size and demographic makeup,” said Dr. Ruth Delaney, director of Vera’s Unlocking Potential initiative.

The Vera Institute of Justice reported that access to college in prison has begun to rebound from the effects of the 1994 Crime Bill, which banned incarcerated people’s eligibility for Pell Grants and resulted in a steep drop in the number of college programs operating in prisons. Vera was part of a coalition that advocated for a federal law that would repeal the ban on and reinstate Pell Grants, making an estimated 750,000 people in prison eligible for the grants.

“We’re eager to see how the quality and equity of opportunities offered in prison improve as more prison education programs gain approval and launch in the years ahead,” said Delaney.

“It’s been 30 years since college was consistently available in prison,” she continued “We are at the cusp of a new era of opportunity. Building out quality higher education in prisons will take time but based on our findings, we’re on our way.”

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