There's No Rehabilitation Without Education (Part 2)

by Dortell Williams

In 1991, Senator Jesse Helms argued that prisoners were being afforded free education that   many tax-paying citizens  couldn’t afford, inciting a hate debate. In 1993, Senator Kay Bauley  Hutchinson  claimed  that prisoners “received as much as $200 million in Pell Grant funds.”  A year  later,  the hate debate had grown so fierce that Senator Claiborne Pell, for whom Basic Education Opportunity Grants were named, interceded to clarify the record, stating:  “…  a student qualifies for a grant,  and  the size of the grant depends on the availability of appropriations.  Thus, the child of a police officer would not be denied a grant in favor of a prisoner. If both are eligible, both would receive grants.”

Another  more  accurate delineation of Pell Grant distribution to people incarcerated was published in 2004, the last year the grants were  available to us. Approximately 25,000  incarcerated individuals  received   funding among the 4.7 million Pell Grants dispersed. Only one-half of one-percent of all grants  went  to people incarcerated. The average amount issued was $1400 – a mere fraction of the $200  million that Senator Hutchinson had claimed.

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