The Associated Students Inc. Senate voted 16-0-2 in support of two bills Wednesday, which would champion educational opportunities for prisoners.
The first would support the Aim Higher Act, which would once again make the Pell Grant available to prisoners, and the other would encourage Long Beach State to establish face-to-face education programs in the California State Prison System.
The Pell Grant is a federal program that provides funds for undergraduates with financial needs. Under the Aim Higher Act, implemented in 2017, prisoners were able to receive funds for education, but the act was allowed to expire in 2018.
Both pieces of legislation were penned by College of Education Sen. Dale Lendrum, who himself has spent 11 years behind bars and 28 years in the prison system.
Lendrum said promoting education is cost-effective, lowers the recidivism rate and helps to reincorporate people into the working-world after release.
“Promoting educational opportunities when [prisoners] get released … increases public safety, and increases the tax base,” Lendrum said. “After four decades of ‘tough on crime,’ ‘war on drugs’ and mass incarceration, we’ve seen that locking people away for every little thing doesn’t work.”
Sen. Jireh Deng spoke in favor of the resolution.
“This is obviously very important,” she said. “There is major support behind this movement.
Evidence suggests that educating prisoners drastically lowers the recidivism rate, which is usually well above 50% in the first year after release, and over 75% after five years.
However, education dramatically lowers these rates, with an associate’s degree dropping the value to around 13%, a bachelor’s degree to 5% and a master’s degree dropping it to effectively 0%. California State University, Los Angeles already has a program that allows prisoners to earn a bachelor’s degree in communication while behind bars.
Lendrum has personal experience in the transformative effect education can have on prisoners.
“I was fortunate enough to enroll in a community college,” he said. “In the past 11 years, I’ve got my A.A., my B.A., my master’s and now I’m a doctoral student.”
Despite being legalized on a federal level relatively recently, support for the Pell Grant being made available to prisoners has seen bipartisan support.
Both Senate resolutions will have to go through a minimum of two more readings during which they can be amended or struck down.
The next ASI Senate meeting will be Feb. 5 at 3:30 p.m at USU 234.