As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to create a fairer, more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on communities, the Department of Education this week announced the Second Chance Pell Pilot program to test new models to allow incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue postsecondary education.

Research has found that high-quality education during a prisoner’s time in a correctional facility has been shown to measurably reduce re-incarceration rates. This can ultimately save taxpayers money and create safer communities.

According to a Department of Justice-funded 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who didn’t participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.

In 1994, Congress amended the Higher Education Act (HEA) to eliminate Pell Grant eligibility for students in federal and state penal institutions. The United States currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world with more than 1.5 million prisoners in lockdown. The pilot program will restore educational opportunity for some of those individuals.

“As the president recently noted, for the money we currently spend on prison, we could provide universal pre-kindergarten for every 3- and 4-year-old in America or double the salary of every high school teacher in the country,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “America is a nation of second chances. Giving people who have made mistakes in their lives a chance to get back on track and become contributing members of society is fundamental to who we are.”

“I wholeheartedly support the Obama Administration’s announcement of the Second Chance Pell Pilot program that will allow both state and federal prisoners to access Pell grants.

Allowing prisoners a chance to pursue higher education is good for our communities, good for our national budget, and it is just the right thing to do,” said Rep. Karen Bass, who represents the 37th Congressional District. “President Obama is returning us back to where our nation was a few decades ago when we thought that rehabilitation was crucial to the criminal justice system, and we provided education opportunities to people while they were in prison as well as providing financial aid to former offenders so they could attend state colleges and universities, when they got out.”

Through this pilot program, incarcerated individuals who otherwise meet Title IV eligibility requirements and are eligible for release, particularly within the next five years, could access Pell Grants to pursue postsecondary education and training. The goal is to increase access to high-quality educational opportunities and help these individuals successfully transition out of prison and back into the classroom or the workforce.

Incarcerated students who receive Pell Grants through this pilot will not be eligible to receive other types of Federal student aid.

For more information, visit the website: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2015-18994.pdf.