The 1994 crime bill, formally known as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, reframed the U.S. attitude towards criminal justice. Instead of compassion and rehabilitation, the focus shifted towards being “tough on crime.” Through numerous cuts and changes, the 1994 crime bill extended this “toughness” to the treatment of our incarcerated population. One target of the bill was education: After 1994, incarcerated individuals could no longer access Pell Grants.
Recently, I joined Illinois Rep Danny Davis to talk about lifting the Pell Grant ban and giving people more access to education. Congress has introduced a bill - the bipartisan REAL Act (H.R.2168 /S.1074) - which would restore access to Pell Grants. But it is not moving as fast as planned and needs some helpful pressure for final passage.
This fall Congress has a chance do do something life-changing: restore access to Pell Grans for incarcerated students. On September 10, 2019, FCNL hosted a special briefing with Rep. Danny Davis (IL-07) and José Woss, FCNL’s legislative manager for criminal justice.
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.
On July 25, Attorney General William Barr announced that the federal government will start carrying out death sentences for the first time in nearly two decades by ordering the executions of five inmates. FCNL opposes this action and believes the death penalty should be abolished in all jurisdictions.
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.
The House passed several spending bills for fiscal year 2020 in June—including the Labor Health and Human Services (Labor-H), Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD), Commerce Justice Science (CJS), Interior Energy and Water, and State Foreign Operations (SFOPs) appropriations bills.
The Pentagon’s 1033 program transfers weapons designed for war zones to local police forces in the United States, fueling the perception that local law enforcement is a military force occupying our communities.