1. Background
  2. Criminal Justice

Support For the REAL Act is Everywhere

By Joe D'Antonio, September 3, 2019


The REAL Act is a bipartisan bill that seeks to restore access to Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals. Ending this ban would help to unlock the potential of incarcerated individuals across the nation and help them to achieve personal and career success, while simultaneously lowering the societal costs of recidivism. Below are quotes of support from lawmakers, the secretary of education, and activists from across the political spectrum as well as individuals who benefited from Pell Grants while incarcerated.

“It is a common-sense investment...and a win-win for states, the country, and for incarcerated individuals, because they’re able to come home and thrive.” -Fred Patrick, Director, Vera Institute

“The takeaway for me is that this makes us safer. Period.” -Arthur Rizer, Director, R Street

“I’ve got other skills I can use: robbing, stealing, violence. So, if you don’t teach me new skills, I’m still going to survive. It’s just, what skills do you want me using?” -Jose Bou, returned citizen

“Most prisoners, sooner or later, are released from prison, and no one is helped when they do not have the skills to find a job...Making Pell Grants available to them in the right circumstances is a good idea.” -Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the Health Education Labor and Pension Committee

“I’ve long believed education can open doors otherwise closed, and that is absolutely also the case for incarcerated individuals...Repealing the ban on Pell Grants for prisoners will give those who have paid their debts to society a meaningful second chance, and the ability to get their lives back on track and support themselves and their families once released.” -Senator Patty Murray, Ranking Member of the Health Education Labor and Pension Committee

“I still remember when the hammer fell, and colleges literally came in the next day and started packing up their boxes, all the books...We couldn’t believe it. For most of us, it was the only thing that represented a second chance.” -Sean Pica, incarcerated individual

“I think what we see here today is evidence of the power of learning and education, no matter who you are, where you are, and that we all have to ultimately be lifelong learners. You are all examples of what happens when students can use aid in expanded ways.” -Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at a graduation ceremony inside the Dick Connor Correctional Center in Hominy, Oklahoma

Update Restoring Access to Education in Prisons 

In the 1990’s leaders in Washington, D.C. sought to increase punitive sentences and address crime through harsh punishment. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322) increased prison sentences, created incentives for states to build new prisons, and strengthened laws that made the incarcerated serve more of their sentence before their release. The law also eliminated Pell Grants in prisons.

Joe D'Antonio

  • Program Assistant, Criminal Justice and Election Integrity

Joe D’Antonio is the Program Assistant for Criminal Justice and Election Integrity. His primary responsibilities include lobbying members of Congress, writing policy updates, and conducting legislative research.