October 26, 2021

Van Hollen, Schatz Introduce Legislation To Promote Educational Opportunities for Incarcerated Americans

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) in reintroducing legislation to expand access to education for Americans in federal prisons. The Promoting Reentry through Education in Prisons Act (PREP) Act would create an office within the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) focused on correctional education and fund a new program to address the lack of educational opportunities currently offered. 

Education programs in prison can dramatically help formerly incarcerated individuals by providing the tools to rebuild their lives, while at the same time lowering correctional spending. These programs also have a clear public safety benefit, reducing recidivism rates by over 43 percent. People in federal prisons, however, do not have access to consistent or adequate education opportunities, and the BOP lacks resources needed to administer such programs.

The PREP Act would address this by establishing both an Office of Prison Education within the BOP to standardize educational programs across all federal prisons and a new program focused on partnerships between federal prisons and local education providers. It would also provide training and resources for state and local prisons to use in their own education programs. Additionally, it would create a centralized hub for research, policies, and best practices on correctional education. Finally, the bill would ensure that eligible veterans in prison are notified of their ability to access their education benefits and are connected with available education programs in their federal or state correctional facility.

This legislation was also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). Companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives has been introduced by U.S. Representative Madeline Dean (D-Pa.).

The PREP Act is supported by the Correctional Leaders Association, Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), Dream Corps JUSTICE, FAMM, NAACP, The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), National CURE, College and Community Fellowship, Center for Disability Rights, Operation Restoration, Second Chance Education Alliance Inc., Prison Scholar Fund, and Record Clearance Project of SJSU.

The full text of the bill can be found here.