Beyond Access Advancing Racial Equity and Inclusion in Prison Education Programs

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AP Photo/Jessica Hill


The July 2023 return of Pell Grant eligibility for all people in prisons brings not only a monumental shift in opportunity but also a responsibility to ensure that everyone—regardless of race or ethnicity—gets access to that opportunity and the support to make use of it. To bridge the gap between promising practices for advancing equity in postsecondary education and current corrections education practices, Vera launched a multiyear, cross-state, collaborative project to explore racial inequities in both systems and strategies to address their overlap in postsecondary prison education. Advancing racial equity requires work from actors at all levels of both systems, particularly from those who are responsible for administering these programs, such as prison education program directors from postsecondary institutions, and education and programs directors from corrections agencies.

Key Takeaway

Corrections departments and colleges should focus on racial equity to ensure that everyone—especially those with historical barriers to access education, like people of color—can partake in the opportunities that Pell reinstatement brings for people in prison.

Publication Highlights

  • Prison education program leaders must assess who they serve and how well programs serve these students and utilize that data to advance equity through policy and practice change.

  • It is important to place equal value on students' experience in a program by considering and acting upon student feedback—such as through student voice councils.

  • Equity work is not bound to a single project or initiative; it is a never-ending process to shape policies and practices. Prison education program leaders should center equity in all program planning, implementation, and evaluation.

Key Facts