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Prison Reform Panel

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Since 1994, prisoners have not been able to use Pell Grants fo their education. Starting this year, 2023, students will be able to use grants again! For every one dollar spent on prisoner education five dollars is saved. Prisoners who obtain an education are 48% less likely to go back to prison. 700 out of 30,000 encarcerated prisoners are enrolled in college education programs. Panelist Rachel Sander stresses how much these programs change the prisoners, their families and communities lives for the better.

Panelist Jose Pineda did years of time while incarcerated. He stresses the importance of realizing how most prisoners come from disadvantaged backgrounds. He believes it’s important to keep your mind on the right things when incarcerated. He says to focus on humanity when thinking of prisoners is very important. The panel feels that “de-humanizing” people is a big problem when thinking of incarcerated people. Also keeping in mind the nuances of each individual is important to help the prisoners the most. They think that growing up in a poor environment is a big factor as to why people become incarcerated. They feel that every single person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Jose believes that if not for these programs, he would not have gained a college education. He feels being deprived an education is being deprived an essential need, such as food.

The goal is to prepare prisoners for entering back into society and preventing going back. Sometimes things as basic as using technology, like a cel phone, is most important for a prisoner re-entering society. Everyone’s experience is different. It can take years to receive gainful employment with with a college education. Jose stresses that just staying out of prison afterwards doesn’t necessarilly mean success to some. Listening to people that are currently incarcerated will go a LONG way in reforming the system for the better. Panelist Rachel sees more resistance to these prison education programs in upstate NY than in NYC. This makes the people culturally less receptive to them. The panel in general agrees that these programs receive a lot of push-back. However it is important because we are a country of incarceration! In terms of operations the prisons parallel the SUNY education system. It is from prioritizing community collaboration that can become key to prison education reform.

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