Private prison company backs Pell Grants for inmates
October 21, 2020

PoliticoPro reports the following article,

“One of the nation’s largest operators of private prisons is throwing its support behind a congressional effort to overturn the federal ban on incarcerated students receiving Pell Grants.

CoreCivic, the Nashville-based company formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, said Wednesday it would support legislation to allow incarcerated students to apply for Pell Grants to pay for college classes.

“Inmates became ineligible for Pell grants nearly 30 years ago,” the company said in a new position paper. “It is time for this outdated policy to be changed for the good of incarcerated individuals who meet certain criteria and for the safety, prosperity and progress of society as a whole.”

Key context: The company’s support for restoring Pell Grants for prisoners is part of a package of reforms it said it would advocate for at the state and federal level. Other policies include restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated people as well as making it easier for them to get occupational licenses and jobs.

The new positions come as the private industry braces for major changes if Democrats take the White House and Congress. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, under pressure from progressives, has committed to ending the federal government’s use of private prisons.

Growing support for Pell for prisoners: CoreCivic joins a wide-ranging coalition of organizations that supports overturning the ban on incarcerated students receiving Pell Grants.

Groups representing prosecutors and businesses have backed the effort as have many education, labor and civil rights organizations. Republican governors and conservative groups like FreedomWorks also have called on Congress to make the change.

The Obama administration started a pilot program that allowed the Education Department to send a limited number of Pell Grants to incarcerated students. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has expanded the program and called on Congress to make it permanent.

House Democrats passed legislation that would overturn the ban on incarcerated students receiving Pell Grants earlier this year as part of an education funding bill, H.R. 7617 (116).

Senate HELP Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has said he would support restoring prisoners’ access to Pell Grants as part of an overhaul of the Higher Education Act. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have introduced stand-alone legislation, S. 1074 (116) , known as the REAL Act, that would make the change.

Unclear where Biden stands: Congress banned prisoners from accessing Pell Grants as part of the 1994 crime law, which Biden championed as a senator. Biden has said he wants to reinstate Pell Grant eligibility for formerly incarcerated people. But he has not said whether he would do the same for students in prison now.”

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