[Congressional Record Volume 140, Number 126 (Monday, September 12, 1994)]
[Page S]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]

[Congressional Record: September 12, 1994]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]


 Mr. SIMON. Mr. President, when we were considering eliminating 
the Pell grants for prison inmates, I was one of those who opposed that 
policy. It makes sense if prison inmates are never going to get out of 
prison, but it doesn't make sense when the huge majority of those in 
our prisons will come out.
  We are doing far too little in the way of constructive effort for 
those in prison. This has been one of the few constructive things.
  The New York Times carried an op-ed piece by Jon Marc Taylor, who is 
a prison inmate in Missouri--I gather in a Federal prison.
  Our response to the whole problem of crime has been shortsighted, and 
there is no better illustration than our taking Pell grants away from 
those in our prisons who want to pursue further education.
  I ask to insert into the Record the op-ed piece by Jon Marc Taylor.
  The article follows:

                [From the New York Times, Aug. 24, 1994]

           There Ought to Be a Law (But Not This Crime Bill)

               Congress Is Stealing Our College Education

                         (By Jon Marc Taylor*)

       Jefferson City, Mo.--On April 19, I ``celebrated'' my 
     anniversary. On that day I had been locked up for 14 years. I 
     had survived and even grown stronger in the crucible of the 
     keep (as good as any reason to celebrate), but after watching 
     NBC's ``Dateline'' that evening, I feared I had outlived the 
     best chance any ex-con has of making it once he hits the 
     bricks again.
     *Jon Marc Taylor, a prison inmate in Missouri, won a Robert 
     F. Kennedy journalism award last year.
       The lead segment on ``Dateline'' that night was on 
     prisoners receiving Pell higher education grants to help 
     finance undergraduate college education. A measure denying 
     Pell grants to inmates was up for a vote in the House the 
     next day; the Senate had already passed such a measure.
       And now Congress is about to turn the exclusion, 
     incorporated into the crime bill, into the nation's policy on 
     higher education for prisoners.
       Since 1982, when I enrolled in a state university's prison 
     extension program, I have managed to complete associate and 
     bachelor's degrees with the help of Pell grants, and then, 
     with the assistance of family, friends and church groups, 
     became the first prisoner in my state to earn a graduate 
     degree. I began a doctoral program in education and completed 
     a few courses before my transfer to another state temporarily 
     stalled that guest. By then, higher education had so enriched 
     my soul that with my own resources I started a second 
     baccalaureate program in criminal justice and psychology.
       Over the years, I have witnessed countless changes in my 
     fellow convicts and brother classmates. White and black 
     offenders not only got along but actually and began to 
     respect one another. My fraternity brothers spoke about 
     careers, going straight and, even more remarkable, about 
     being proud of that life style. When prisoner-students got 
     out, a truly remarkable thing happened. They did not come 
       In May, a friend of mine and a two-time loser, who during 
     his second bit enrolled in the prison college program, worked 
     full time and started a family after his release. He is now 
     receiving his bachelor's degree, with honors, in writing. 
     Another acquaintance, who is being released after 15 years, 
     is already enrolled in graduate school. My ex-cellmate, who 
     completed part of his degree in prison, is a manager at a 
     burger chain and attends a nationally ranked university. All 
     three men depended on Pell grants.
       Now, it appears that one of the few shining stars I have 
     seen in the dismal galaxy of corrections is fading out.
       Its end is due in part to misinformation like the 
     ``Dateline'' piece, which implied that a miscarriage of 
     justice was transpiring at the expense of Joe (and Jane) 
       The show told us that some 27,000 inmate-students receive 
     Pell grants worth $35 million annually. What was not reported 
     was that $6.3 billion in grants went to 4.3 million students 
     the same year. The report didn't mention that prisoners 
     receive about one-half of 1 percent of all Pell grants.
       Then it said that half of those who apply for assistance 
     are denied Pell grants and that inmates unfairly skew the 
     need-based formula to their benefit. We were not told that 
     those denied aid generally come from families with incomes 
     about the $42,000 ceiling set by Congress.
       With prisoners expelled from the Pell program, little will 
     change. All students who qualify for grants in a given year 
     receive them. The $35 million ``saved'' will be distributed 
     to the other recipients; evenly divided, it would amount to 
     less than $5 per semester for each one.
       Only vaguely did ``Dateline'' suggest that prison college 
     programs reduce the likelihood of the participants' return to 
     prison. This seems a strange oversight when the purpose of 
     prisons, aside from deterrence, is to rehabilitate. The 
     debate over the efficacy of rehabilitation has been 
     vitriolic, but there remains little doubt that the better 
     educated the ex-convict, the smaller the chance of 
       That has been documented since the 1970's. In December, the 
     Federal Bureau of Prisons reported a 40 percent recidivism 
     rate for all Federal parolees while among college graduates 
     the rate was 5 percent.
       Since it costs $25,000 a year to incarcerate someone, with 
     $11.5 billion invested in concrete and barbed wire in 1990 
     alone, any program that routinely cuts inmates' return rates 
     in half should be expanded, not eliminated.
       The average cost of a skill-related associate's degree 
     earned in prison is $3,000. This is a little over 10 percent 
     of the cost of a single year of incarceration. Yet states are 
     spending more for penitentiaries than universities.
       Congress is doing more than shuttering prison college 
     classrooms. To a large extent it is closing the door to hope 
     for a future after release. But hope is the critical 
     ingredient, I have learned. It forms the bulwark against the 
     insanity of dehabilitating incarceration and the corrosive 
     anger of monotonous, petty regimentation.
       Some people argue that inmates have lost the ``right'' to a 
     college education at public expense. What they fail to 
     consider is that the issue is not rights, but reclaiming 
     humanity. And researchers are finding that it is in the 
     cognitive powers that positive restructuring (rehabilitation, 
     if you will) must take place. We can pay for the opportunity 
     now, or we can pay much more later.
       The move by Congress is not surprising. Politicians have 
     been playing to the cheap seats with their ineffectual litany 
     of ``get tough on crime.'' The crime bill will spend more 
     public money on cell blocks--and more poorly educated, 
     untrained offenders will be released back into society. And 
     nothing will change the economic and social conditions that 
     feed the frustrations, ignorance and futile coping attempts 
     that we call crime in America.