A Legal Action Center public policy priority

Legal Action Center is advocating for passage of the REAL Act!

The Restoring Education and Learning Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Donna Edwards, along with Reps. Danny K. Davis, Barbara Lee , Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, Rosa L. DeLauro, and Cedric L. Richmond, would restore Pell Grant eligibility for students in prison. A 1994 law eliminated Pell Grant eligibility for students in prison, dramatically reducing the educational opportunities available to them. Education empowers people to take control of their lives and gives them the tools to succeed at work. Higher education also lowers recidivism rates, which creates cost savings for law enforcement and correctional systems. Barriers to education undermine successful  reentry and prevent people from fulfilling their potential.

The law denying Pell Grant eligibility for students in prison went into effect in 1995. Since that time the number of in-prison college programs dropped from 350 to 12, a devastating reduction in the opportunities available to people in prison who want to improve themselves and their prospects in the economy. As Rep. Danny Davis says:

“A lack of federal funding is the primary barrier to correctional education. This is another reason why we need to expand Pell Grants and restore eligibility for the incarcerated. Expanding and restoring Pell is a common-sense federal investment that dramatically increases successful reentry and builds stronger communities and families.”


Get Involved!

You can help get Congress to pass this critical legislation. Here’s how:

  • Contact your members of Congress and let them know you support the REAL Act and hope they will support the bill too.
  • Use our sample talking points to tell people, policymakers, and members of the press why you support the REAL Act.
  • Use our sample Tweets or create your own to spread the word and show your support.
  • Support our work to pass the REAL Act.


REAL Act in the House, H.R. 2521

Do you want to know more about the REAL Act? Click here.


Sample Tweets and Talking Points

Sample Tweets

I stand w/ @LAC_news in support of #TheREALAct that restores #PellGrants in prison bc education is for everyone. http://ow.ly/NhFGO

Education improves lives, increases public safety. That’s why I support #TheREALAct. Restore #PellGrants in prison. http://ow.ly/NhFGO

Thanks @RepDonnaEdwards @RepDannyDavis @RepBarbaraLee @RepBobbyScott @RosaDelauro @RepRichmond for #TheREALAct. http://ow.ly/NhFGO

Sample Talking Points

  • Education has been shown to reduce recidivism and promote public safety.
  • Making Pell Grants available for students who are in prison will improve opportunities for them without significantly increasing the Pell budget. Plus, correctional education is a good public safety investment shown to pay off in $2 in reduced costs for every $1 spent.

  • The REAL Act would Pell Grant eligibility for students in prison. Between 1995, when  the current law denying Pell Grants went into effect, and 2005, the number of in-prison college programs dropped from 350 to 12.

For more information or media inquiries

Mark O’Brien, Senior Criminal Justice Policy Associate

[email protected]


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