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Study urges Pell grant funding for prison education programs

A study released Wednesday is urging the federal government to end a quarter-century old ban on prisoners receiving federal Pell Grants to help pay for college education programs.

Lifting the ban on Pell Grant funding could help nearly 500,000 incarcerated people, including nearly 11,000 Georgians, according to the study by the Vera Institute of Justice and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality.

The ban on grants to prisoners was part of the 1994 crime bill. 

The grants previously served as the primary funding source for college programs in prison, researchers said in the 64-page report. Access to such programs would result in higher earnings for inmates once they’re released and those former inmates would be less likely to return to prison, researchers said.

“Expanding access to postsecondary education in prison, through state and federal action, is a step we can take that can truly disrupt mass incarceration and break the cycle of poverty that comes with it,” the report said.

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Pell Grants are typically issued to students who or their families fall below certain income levels. 

Political leaders of both major parties have pushed for criminal justice reforms, particularly for non-violent offenders. The report does not specify whether lawmakers would consider the report’s recommendations.

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