Go “Pell” it on the Mountain


Prison and sentencing reform is now a part of mainstream American dialogue, with bipartisan support of politicians who typically accomplish nothing of substance. The wrenching disruption of life, for all involved with an inmate, is tough to appreciate. One has to live it to believe it.

There used to be a Wendy’s TV commercial where this little old lady looked at a hamburger and said, “Where’s the beef?” I would submit that an inmate could reflect on their situation and say, “Where’s the hope?” When an inmate faces bureaucratic obstacles regarding their future, while isolated demeaned and broke, if not broken; where do they find hope? How about through faith and knowledge?

I have shared the role faith played in my wife’s journey through a two federal year investigation, twenty-three months of prison time and three years of supervised release. It was and continues to be amazing and I’ve had a front row seat through it all. Learning behind the wire, taught by people with credibility and passion can be a game changer. It’s one thing to be schooled on faith, but who or what credentials help you get a job as a felon having served time? Let’s see, your family moved on without you, prison culture is obviously different than the work world, probation compliance is very tricky and your broke; anybody see a problem? No wonder the national recidivism rate is 67.8% and as American taxpayers we pay the freight. Three strikes and we’re out…of money! http://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/recidivism/Pages/welcome.aspx

A recent New York Times editorial details the benefits of providing inmates meaningful education: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/01/opinion/for-prisoners-a-path-to-society.html?ref=opinion The old mid 90’s mind set: “Make them suffer in the slammer,” “No Club Fed on my watch,” and “Out of sight out of mind,” has cost this nation big time.  American Pell grants, which fund college education, were removed in the mid 90’s as an option for prisoners to receive while incarcerated. The results were sadly predictable; inmates who did not receive an education behind bars were released unequipped to re-enter society only to find themselves back in prison. Of course the politicians who made this policy have moved on leaving the tax payers to hold the bag.  The good news, Pell grants have just been returned as an option for inmates thanks to the Obama Administration. My wife was absolutely elated when she found this out. Patty understands the hope it will bring behind the wire.

Do you want recidivism rates at 67.8% or 4%? That is the cost to taxpayers with each scenario. This isn’t soft on crime, this is real prison reform. As a nation, America faces a mountain of debt. So if an inmate has paid their debt to society, re-enters it successfully with a college education and secures a job; everybody wins.

Pell grants for prisoners will help reduce the $80 billion spent annually in the United States on corrections; I have no beef with that.

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