Prison College Programs Unlock the Keys to Success After Incarceration
April 16, 2011
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In 1994, Bill Clinton signed a federal crime bill, which denied inmates access to Pell Grants. These grants had provided scholarships for prisoners to earn a bachelors degree while incarcerated. This piece of legislation effectively ended prison higher education in the U.S., as virtually all of the approximately 350 programs around the country shut down for lack of funds.
Statistics have repeatedly shown that the cost of keeping a prisoner in prison for one year exceeds the cost of educating prisoners for one year by a 10 to 1 ratio. Despite the obvious advantages, the movement away from reforms that offer education to prisoners continues to grow. The concept of prison reform has been replaced by policies that are punitive and in favor of permanent incarceration.
Fortunately, there are still a handful of passionate defenders of justice fostering groundbreaking partnerships with colleges to restore educational opportunities to inmates. While unfunded by the government, these programs are providing inmates with the tools to reenter society and become productive members of the community.
One such example is the Prison University Project (PUP) operating out of San Quentin Prison. PUP is currently the only college prison program in the state of California. The video below shows how a non-profit, with a charismatic and hard working executive director (Jody Lewen), and a team of dedicated volunteers can change lives and bring hope to the incarcerated.
Studies have clearly shown that “participants in prison education, vocation and work programs have recidivism rates 20-60 percent lower than those of non-participants. The decline of these programs have turned our prisons into overcrowded holding cells, which release inmates without alternatives and tools and skills to apply for jobs, and become legitimate members of the community.