Send a convict to prison, and he’ll go straight only for as long as he’s behind bars; give him an education, and there’s a far better chance he’ll stay on the straight and narrow the rest of his life. That’s seems to be the thinking behind legislation introduced in Washington last week by Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.
The Restoring Education and Learning — or, REAL — Act, would restore Pell Grant eligibility for the incarcerated, says a news release from Bennet’s office, “in order to cut the cycle of recidivism, save taxpayer money, and improve safety”:
Explains the press statement:
In 1994, incarcerated individuals lost access to Pell Grant assistance, causing a significant drop in the number of education programs in prisons. …
… The national recidivism rate is 43.3 percent within three years, but higher education can have a dramatic effect on reducing that rate. A widely cited study conducted by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice found that higher education reduced recidivism to just 13.7 percent for formerly incarcerated individuals who earned an associate’s degree …
It’s also cheaper to educate than to incarcerate, the senator contends: “It has been estimated that an investment of $1 million in prison education programs prevents approximately 600 crimes, while the same amount of funding would only prevent approximately 350 crimes if invested in incarceration alone.”
Bennet is quoted:
“It’s proven that expanding access to education for people in prison is not only an investment in their futures, but also an investment in our communities.”