WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) reintroduced legislation to expand access to education for Americans in federal prisons. The Promoting Reentry through Education in Prisons Act (PREP) Act would create an office within the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) focused on correctional education and fund a new program to address the lack of educational opportunities currently offered.
“Everyone deserves a second chance, and education is key to post-incarceration success,” said Senator Cardin. “I’ve seen firsthand the transformative, positive benefits of education in Maryland’s prisons through the Federal Second Chance Pell Pilot Program that provide opportunities through Maryland institutions of higher education. It is vital that we make available all levels of educational resources while individuals are incarcerated to help them reintegrate into their communities after serving their time and reduce recidivism.”
“When I visited Maryland’s Jessup Correctional Institution for the launch of the Federal Second Chance Pilot Program a number of years ago, two things were very clear: education is a key to successful re-entry for incarcerated individuals, and we need to do more on this front,” said Senator Van Hollen. “Formalizing a role at the Federal Bureau of Prisons to advance educational opportunities will help reduce recidivism, improve public safety, and save taxpayer dollars, while changing the lives of those looking for a second chance.”
“Research shows that one of the best ways to break the cycle of recidivism is through education,” said Senator Schatz. “This bill would make it easier for people in the federal prison system to pursue a better life through learning, in turn improving our public safety and saving taxpayers’ money.”
Education programs in prison can dramatically help formerly incarcerated individuals by providing the tools to rebuild their lives, while at the same time lowering correctional spending. These programs also have a clear public safety benefit, reducing recidivism rates by over 43 percent. People in federal prisons, however, do not have access to consistent or adequate education opportunities, and the BOP lacks resources needed to administer such programs.
The PREP Act would address this by establishing both an Office of Prison Education within the BOP to standardize educational programs across all federal prisons and a new program focused on partnerships between federal prisons and local education providers. It would also provide training and resources for state and local prisons to use in their own education programs. Additionally, it would create a centralized hub for research, policies, and best practices on correctional education. Finally, the bill would ensure that eligible veterans in prison are notified of their ability to access their education benefits and are connected with available education programs in their federal or state correctional facility.
“It’s in everyone’s interest that when people re-enter society, they do so with the skills they need to build decent futures for themselves and their families,” Representative Dean said. “Educational opportunities make all the difference in helping to break the cycle of recidivism and reincarceration – and create more positive outcomes for all.”
In the Senate, this legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). Companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives has been introduced by U.S. Representative Madeline Dean (D-Pa.).
“The value of prison education cannot be underestimated. As corrections leaders, we know the impact it has on people and how it can transform their lives for the better,” said Anne Precythe, President of the Correctional Leaders Association (CLA) and Director of Corrections for Missouri.
The PREP Act is supported by the Correctional Leaders Association, Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), Dream Corps JUSTICE, FAMM, NAACP, The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), National CURE, College and Community Fellowship, Center for Disability Rights, Operation Restoration, Second Chance Education Alliance Inc., Prison Scholar Fund, and Record Clearance Project of SJSU.
The full text of the bill can be found here.