1. Legislative Ask
  2. Criminal Justice

Co-Sponsor the REAL Act and include in the Higher Education Act

H.R.2168 /S.1074

April 12, 2019


Mass incarceration is built upon excessive sentences and limited opportunities for rehabilitation. Workforce training and education in prison are key to unlocking potential and increasing the likelihood of success upon release.

The Restoring Education And Learning (REAL) Act (H.R.2168 /S.1074) would unlock the potential of men and women who are incarcerated or have been incarcerated by lifting the ban on Pell Grants for post-secondary or technical education. Lifting the ban would create a pathway to success, resulting in reduced recidivism and cost to taxpayers through reduced prison costs.

Our goal is to restore dignity through opportunity and employment through passage of the REAL Act:

Reducing Recidivism and Restoring Dignity:

Incarceration strips people of their dignity by removing them from communities and limiting their opportunities.

  • More than 400,000 incarcerated people would be eligible for Pell Grants if the ban were lifted.
  • Expanding post-secondary education in prisons could decrease prison costs by $365 million per year.
  • Only 9 percent of the current prison population receive at least a college certificate.
  • Formerly incarcerated people will be 10 percent more likely to find employment.
  • The REAL Act could also produce a 2 percent overall increase in employability among the incarcerated population. *

Impacts on Mass Incarceration:

  • There are approximately 5 million children with an incarcerated parent.
  • Increased employability through education leads to better jobs and incomes for people returning to our communities.
  • If we pass the REAL Act people will leave prison and enter the workforce with more education and skills. That is a formula for success. The best form of public safety is opportunity and policies that look at the whole person.

Cosponsor and include the REAL Act in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to lift the ban on Pell Grants for all eligible incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated people as a strategy to improve public safety and expand opportunity.

[*All figures from Vera Institute report: Investing in Futures: Economic and Fiscal Benefits of Postsecondary Education in Prison]

FCNL Contact: José Woss, jose@fcnl.org