Schatz Reintroduces Legislation to Expand Educational Opportunities for Inmates

PC: courtesy office of US Sen. Brian Schatz.

Today, US Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) reintroduced legislation to expand access to education for Americans in federal prisons.

The Promoting Reentry through Education in Prisons Act aims to create an office within the Federal Bureau of Prisons focused on correctional education and fund a new program to address the lack of educational opportunities currently offered.

“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.”

Sen. Schatz contends that 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. He said these programs also have a “clear public safety benefit,” reducing recidivism rates by more than 43%. 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, according to Sen. Schatz.

The PREP Act seeks to 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 seeks to 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 US Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), 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.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). Companion legislation in the US House of Representatives has been introduced by US Representative Madeline Dean (D-Pa.).

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