Pell Grants and Prisoners

The states are looking for ways to reduce their prison costs. According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, the states spent over $52 billion on prisons in fiscal year 2012. Correctional education and vocational training programs have been shown to save money over the long term by reducing recidivism. Controversially, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 specifically made prisoners ineligible to receive Pell Grants meant to make college more affordable to students from low-income families. The act effectively ended federally subsidized college-level education for inmates. However, the U.S. Department of Education recently began allowing postsecondary institutions to receive Pell Grants for distance learning students in federal or state prisons through an experimental program allowed under the law. But this experimental program may be costly and less successful than traditional vocational training programs.

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