(COMMON DREAMS) Michelle Chen — Prison isn’t the most intellectually stimulating environment, but the dimmest corners of the criminal justice system may actually be a perfect place to liberate an otherwise wasted mind. A new initiative by the White House to issue Pell Grants to incarcerated students is about to test just how truly corrective our so-called corrections system can be.
The plan to extend Pell Grant access in prisons is described as a “limited pilot program” authorized through a federal financial aid waiver program under the Higher Education Act. Incarcerated adults could apply for grants of up to $5,775 for tuition and related expenses, at college-level programs offered in prison facilities nationwide. Designed to allow for studying long-term effects of education on recidivism, the program moves toward restoring access to Pell Grant for incarcerated people, which Congress removed in the mid-1990s.
College behind bars remains a tough sell to some law-and-order conservatives—hence the charmingly titled counter-legislation, “Kids Before Cons” act. Generally, however, the idea of de-carcerating the prison population appeals to an ascendant libertarian streak among Republicans because in fiscal terms, textbooks and professors yield better returns on investment than weight rooms and laundry duty.