[Congressional Record Volume 140, Number 12 (Wednesday, February 9, 1994)]
[Page S]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]

[Congressional Record: February 9, 1994]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]


  Mr. PELL. Madam President, I would like to bring to the attention of 
my colleagues two articles regarding corrections education which 
appeared in the Washington Post on January 29 and 30, 1994, and I would 
ask that they appear in the Record immediately following my remarks.
  As I have often said, education is our primary hope for 
rehabilitating prisoners. Without education, I am afraid most inmates 
leave prison only to return to a life of crime. As George Will notes in 
his column, entitled ``Peanut's Prison Tale,'' 97 percent of all 
persons now incarcerated will someday leave prison. Two-thirds of those 
individuals, however, will be returned to prison within the first 3 
  It is for this reason that we must look to education. As Colman 
McCarthy asserts in his article, ``Better 100,000 More Teachers Than 
100,000 More Police,'' education equals crime prevention. Diplomas are 
crime stoppers. We must recognize that education dramatically reduces 
recidivism rates and that it costs much less to educate a prisoner than 
it does to keep one behind bars.
  With respect to Pell grants for incarcerated students, recent changes 
in law made through the 1992 higher education reauthorization have 
provided strong mechanisms to crack down on any abuse in this program. 
For example, Pell grants cannot be used at any school which offers more 
than 50 percent of its courses by correspondence, has a student 
enrollment in which more than 25 percent of the students are 
incarcerated, or has an enrollment in which more than 50 percent of the 
students are admitted under ability-to-benefit provisions. In addition, 
no prisoner under sentence without a possibility of parole can obtain a 
Pell grant. These and other changes help ensure that the Pell grant 
will not be misused and will, instead, be an important tool for 
  Madam President, I know this is still a controversial issue, but we 
must maintain our commitment to corrections education. Criminals should 
be sentenced and incarcerated, but let us also be concerned with their 
rehabilitation so that prison does not remain a revolving door.
  Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the articles be printed 
in the Record.
  There being no objection, the articles were ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

               [From the Washington Post, Jan. 29, 1994]

         Better 100,000 More Teachers Than 100,000 More Police

                          (By Colman McCarthy)

       America's wardens and parole officers know what few in the 
     Senate and House are willing to acknowledge in the crime bill 
     debate: The more education inmates receive while in prison, 
     the less likely it is they will commit crimes on release.
       Recidivism rates, which range between 60 and 70 percent in 
     most states, are cut by as much as 80 percent among men and 
     women who completed high school or college courses while in 
     prison. Education equals prevention. Diplomas are crime 
       As Congress finishes work on what is expected to be a $22 
     billion crime bill, no increased funding for education 
     programs is in the legislation. It's the other way. The 
     Senate backed an amendment--sponsored by Kay Bailey Hutchison 
     (R-Texas), who is currently under felony indictment for 
     political abuses--to deny prisoners college courses under 
     Pell grants.
       For state programs, the same holds. In Florida, Gov. Lawton 
     Chiles proposed a 20 percent increase in his prison budget 
     while decreasing money for prison education: from $14.2 
     million to $13.5 million next year. The Florida Correctional 
     Education School Authority had asked for $35 million, a 
     meager amount in itself that would have amounted to less than 
     2 cents of every prison dollar.
       America's prisons are centers of illiteracy. The 
     Correctional Educational Association, a Laurel, Md., 
     organization with 2,800 members, estimates that of the 1.2 
     million people currently caged, more than 70 percent are 
     functionally illiterate. Only 20 percent are in education 
     programs. Some 98 percent of those now locked away will be 
     freed eventually, most within five years. If they can't read 
     or add, they have a dog's chance of getting even an unskilled 
       On the last go-'round of a federal crime bill--in the 
     summer of 1991--a crime-prevention amendment was offered to 
     establish required literacy programs in state prisons. Funded 
     for $25 million over two years, it lost 55-39. Sen. Strom 
     Thurmond (R-S.C.) led the opposition, arguing that the 
     amendment would force ``states to spend their limited dollars 
     on teaching rapists and murderers rather than children.''
       Those who are closer than Strom Thurmond to the realities 
     of illiteracy and criminals look bemusedly at the anti-crime 
     posturings of politicians, now on profuse display. One of 
     them is Jody Spertzel, an assistant editor of Corrections 
     Today, the monthly magazine of the American Correctional 
     Association. She had never visited a maximum security prison 
     until last summer. To interview some inmates for a story 
     about an education program in a state prison, she traveled to 
     an 1,100-prisoner facility in Craigsville, Va., about 150 
     miles southwest of Washington.
       Of that journey and the time spent speaking with some 
     prisoners, Spertzel, 27, a Penn State graduate and a person 
     graced with an open mind, recalled last week: ``It's a day I 
     think of often. I believe it has influenced my life and 
     outlook. The reception I received, both by the staff and by 
     the inmates, has remained in my mind. Often I wonder if we on 
     the outside can't be doing more to ensure that prisoners have 
     better options and opportunities awaiting them when they are 
     released. I also wonder what I can do individually to ensure 
     that others do not join them. This is one of the reasons I am 
     choosing to change careers right now, to become a teacher.''
       Spertzel has begun looking into job possibilities as a 
     prison teacher. Let's wish her luck--tons of it. Because luck 
     is about all that's available.
       Others who are committed to the rational and effective 
     include Gail Schwartz, who is 50 percent of the Office of 
     Correctional Education in the Department of Education. Only 
     three years old and funded for $11 million, Schwartz's office 
     has awarded small-sum demonstration grants to 41 programs--
     out of 329 applications. ``Enormous interest is present,'' 
     she says.
       Schwartz represents an enlightened kind of anti-crime 
     advocacy: getting genuinely tough on criminals by exposing 
     them to the rigor and discipline of the classroom. If calls 
     from the Justice Department were as loud for 100,000 prison 
     teachers as they are for 100,000 more police, a decrease in 
     crime would be in sight.

               [From the Washington Post, Jan. 30, 1994]

                          Peanut's Prison Tale

                          (By George F. Will)

       Jessup, Md.--Peanut is a man of few words but his gaze can 
     peel paint, and he frowns eloquently about something Congress 
     may do regarding Pell grants.
       Peanut's given name is Eugene Taylor. He has spent about 
     half of his 42 years situated as he now is, behind bars and 
     barbed wire, sentenced to be plus 25 years for murder and 
     armed robbery. He dropped out of school in the 9th grade. The 
     school, he indicates, had no strong objection. 
     Sentimentalists who think there is no such thing as a bad boy 
     never met Peanut in his misspent youth.
       In his well-spent years in prison he has passed the eight-
     hour examination for a high school equivalency certification, 
     and using Pell grants he has taken enough courses for a 
     community college degree. But a provision of the crime bill 
     the Senate has passed would make prisoners ineligible for 
     such grants, which subsidize post-secondary education for 
     low- and moderate-income students.
       The day Sheriff Clinton addressed Congress, which is chock 
     full of would-be Wyatt Earps hot to be deputized for this 
     latest fight-to-the-finish against crime, Peanut and some 
     other prisoners who have benefited from Pell grants sat 
     around a table expressing emphatic disagreement with the 
     Senate. Douglas Wiley (first-degree accessory, rape and 
     burglary and armed robbery), Willie Marshallel (drug 
     possession), Olin Fisher Bey (rape), Michael Postlewaite 
     (rape), William Blackston (drug distribution), and Tim 
     Sweeney (murder and armed robbery) are where they belong, 
     serving long sentences. But most of them will be paroled 
     someday, some of them soon, as they think of soon; before the 
     year 2000.
       Before intellectual fashion changed, prisons were called 
     penitentiaries. They were places for doing penance and not 
     much else. Today Peanut and his associates are in what 
     Maryland calls a ``correctional institution.'' But 
     ``correcting'' criminals is hardly a science and not 
     frequently a success. Nationally the recidivism rate three 
     years after release is about two-thirds.
       In withdrawing Pell grants from prisoners the Senate may 
     have been grandstanding and chest-thumping, but it also was 
     responding to scarcity. Demand for grants exceeds supply, so 
     why should convicts be served when young people on the 
     outside, whose parents pay taxes to pay for prisons, are not 
     served? An answer may flow from this fact: 97 percent of all 
     persons now incarcerated will someday leave prison.
       Do Pell grants for prisoners ``work''? Is educational 
     attainment in prison a predictor of post-prison success? That 
     is hard to say.
       The prisoners joining Peanut around the table are a self-
     selected set of achievers, not a representative sample of the 
     prison population. There are data showing that education in 
     prison-correlates with reduced recidivism. But that data may 
     show only that the character traits that cause a prisoner to 
     take advantage of prison opportunities would in any case 
     dispose those persons to re-enter society successfully.
       Furthermore, the culture of a prison is complex. In a 
     spirited essay, prisoner Postlewaite suggests, as the other 
     long-term prisoners at the table do this day, that short-
     termers are giving convicts a bad name. Many short-termers 
     regard prison as a rite of passage, a mere hiatus in a career 
     of crime. They have no incentive--the incentive of long 
     sentences--to buckle down to self-improvement.
       ``Look at the behavior of the majority of inmates,'' writes 
     Postlewaite. ``You would think that they were at the 
     community recreation center. All of their friends, relatives 
     and homeboys are right there with them, and they are just as 
     cheerful as they were in the streets.'' Having spent their 
     short sentences watching television, playing basketball and 
     making collect phone calls, they leave prison having ``no 
     fear on bad feelings about coming back.''
       The logic of Postlewaite's argument is that the most 
     promising candidates for Pell grants are serving long 
     sentences. But they are often in for the worst crimes. That 
     is not politically congenial logic.
       Prisoners who enroll in education programs get time cut 
     from their sentences. Some acquire a disquieting fluency with 
     the patios of pop sociology--``enhancing self-esteem'' and 
     ``understanding societal norms''--that parole boards may find 
     soothing. One feels at best ambivalent when someone convicted 
     of a heinous crime says that education ``has made me feel 
     good about myself.''
       But Peanut does not talk like that. And Congress should 
     consider the fact that Peanut may be at large in a few years, 
     at which time Baltimore's streets, which he left long ago, 
     may be a bit safer than they would be if he had not acquired 
     some social skills with the help of his Pell grant.