Some US Prisoners to be Eligible for Federal Education Grants

A new US program seeks to provide access to high-quality educational opportunities and help inmates transition back into the classroom or the workforce.

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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Some prisoners in the United States will now be eligible to receive federal Pell grants to pursue college education under a new Obama administration pilot program, the Department of Education announced in a statement on Friday.

“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 statement said.

The goal of the pilot program, the Education Department explained, is to “increase access to high-quality educational opportunities” and help prisoners successfully transition back into the classroom or the workforce.

Studies have shown that access to postsecondary correctional education “measurably” reduces re-incarceration rates, saves taxpayer money and helps to form safer communities, the Education Department argued.

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The grants can be used to pay for tuition, fees, books as well as other supplies, but those who are awarded will not be eligible for other forms of federal student aid.

Friday’s announcement on the new Pell grant program for prisoners follows the launch in May of President Obama’s non-profit My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, an initiative aimed at reducing crime, lowering the high school drop-out rate and fighting unemployment among African American youth.

The Obama administration has also made an effort to improve the US criminal justice system, by reducing the sentences for non-violent criminals, easing overcrowding in US prisons as well as helping prisoners to retransition to society.

Some 2.2 million people in US jails and another 4.5 million on probation or parole. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, but about half of all inmates are serving jail sentences on non-violent drug-related offences, according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.

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