Congresswoman Lee Applauds Second Chance Pell Pilot Program

Washington D.C. – Today, President Obama announced a Second Chance Pell pilot program to test new models which would allow incarcerated Americans to receive Pell grants and pursue postsecondary education. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who has long championed this effort as a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, released this statement:

“I applaud the President’s action in announcing this important pilot program. 

An education is the best path to a better life and this program will help address the economic and social realities that drive mass incarceration, especially in communities of color. Expanding access to Pell Grants in federal and state penal institutions creates a fairer, more effective criminal justice system that will reduce costs for taxpayers, help address the recidivism crisis, and empower those who have made a mistake rebuild their lives. 

According to a 2013 RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Department of Justice, individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years when compared to those who had not.  The study also found that every dollar invested in correctional education programs yielded a four to five dollar savings on three year re-incarceration costs.

Furthermore, a study published in the Spring 2012 issue of the Western Journal of Criminal Justice estimated the true cost to house prisoners who have recidivated, over a four year period, was more than $25 billion. 

Given these studies, it is an economic imperative to leverage educational opportunities to fight recidivism, which costs taxpayers billions and tears too many families apart, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. 

That is why I am proud to be helping lead efforts to pass The Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act, H.R. 2521, with Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Congressman Danny Davis, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, and Congressman Bobby Scott. This legislation would fully reinstate Pell Grant eligibility for individuals in federal and state penal institutions.

Earlier this year, I sought to include language in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill to expand the Pell grant program. As a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees educational funding, I will continue fighting for programs and resources that help create more opportunities for those who have made a mistake but want to rebuild their lives and take care of their families.”


Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. She serves as chair of the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.