The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act eliminated needs-based federal financial aid funding for people in state and federal prisons seeking to take college courses.Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, H.R. 3355, 103rd Cong. (1994); and Zaid Jilani, “How Congress Killed One of the Few Lifelines for Former Prisoners—And Why It’s Time to Bring It Back,” Alternet, June 3, 2015. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education launched a three-year experiment—known as the “Second Chance Pell” program—supporting 12,000 students in 28 states, both red and blue, to pursue accredited degrees with 69 colleges and universities.U.S. Department of Education, “12,000 Incarcerated Students to Enroll in Postsecondary Educational and Training Programs Through Education Department’s New Second Chance Pell Pilot Program,” press release (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, June 24, 2016). The first graduates who had access to these funds for their education completed certificate programs in 2017.See for example “Pell Grant Pilot Helps TCC Serve Largest-Ever Class of Incarcerated Students,” Tulsa Community College, July 24, 2017.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. announced a $7.3 million award for postsecondary educational programming and reentry services at 17 New York State prisons over the next five years, funded through the Manhattan District Attorney’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative.“Governor Cuomo and Manhattan District Attorney Vance Announce Award Recipients of $7.3 Million Investment in College-Level Education and Reentry Services for New York State Prisons,” press release (Albany, NY: New York State Governor’s Office, August 7, 2017). The program aims to create more than 2,500 seats for college-level education and training for incarcerated individuals across New York. The Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice will oversee educational and reentry planning at seven New York state colleges and universities.“Governor Cuomo and Manhattan District Attorney Vance Announce Award Recipients of $7.3 Million Investment in College-Level Education and Reentry Services for New York State Prisons,” press release (Albany, NY: New York State Governor’s Office, August 7, 2017).