In the beginning of the American Criminal Justice System’s history it’s easy to see its purpose- the confinement of enemy combatants and those who are a threat to others. Later, with the end of World War Two, began an effort to criminalize more and more conduct which lead to the widespread incarceration of American citizens. With the explosion of the prison population, that this caused, came the demands from prisoners for more educational programs. By the 1980’s prison education programs began spreading widely throughout the state and federal prison systems. In the late 80’s and early 90’s prisoners could receive Pell Grants, become educated and change their lives, turning away from crime forever. Then in September of 1994, then President, Bill Clinton signed into law the Violent Crime Control Act. The Act was drafted and endorsed by, Joe Biden who was then the Senator for Delaware. The new law banned incarcerated Americans from receiving Pell Grants and provided $10 billion to states that would require prisoners to remain in prison longer than ever before, regardless of their behavior or rehabilitation efforts.
Not long after the loss of funding, the more than 700 college sponsored prison education programs, that were operating in nearly 1300 prisons nationwide, were forced to withdraw their efforts to educate and rehabilitate American Prisoners.
In today’s prison environment there are few opportunities for prisoners who wish to become educated or rehabilitated. What programs are available are limited and are taught by, and led by, mostly fellow inmates and do not transfer to any recognized educational credits. Most meaningful college programs require the payment of huge upfront fees that keep education out of the reach of the prisoners who come from poverty-stricken households, those who need the change the most.
Now, after 25 years of prisoners being banned from receiving Pell Grants, many Top Democratic Presidential Candidates have signed on to sponsor the Restoring Education and Learning Act (REAL Act). The act, if passed into law, will provide funding for American prisoners to once again seek an education and rehabilitation. To date this act is supported by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris. Even Joe Biden, the author of the original 1994 Crime Bill, has indicated publicly that he would extend Pell Grants to prisoners, but he hasn’t commented on the Real Act directly.
In reality, the American people can only hope that their elected officials will continue to take the education and rehabilitation of prisoners seriously. Until then, the American people are required to rely on the private foundations, volunteers, and companies, who provide low cost educational services to a limited number of inmates, to change the lives of those returning to American communities.
One such company is Freebird Publishers. Their caring staff has, since 2013, taken a number of average inmates and nurtured them into published authors. Those willing prisoners have transformed from planning their next big score into planning their next books. One particular prisoner, Kelly Patrick Riggs, turned from his prison hustle to releasing more than two books per year for the last three years, which started after reading a copy of Freebird Publishers “Inmate Shopper”.
With the help of Freebird Publishers Mr. Riggs has changed his life’s focus forever, he now enjoys a positive outlook and is taking advantage of new career opportunities. Upon his release, in 2020, Mr. Riggs will be employed in the writing and publishing industry- he sings the praises for Freebird Publishers every day.
For more information on changing the life of an incarcerated loved one visit: www.freebirdpublishers.com and ask about the “Inmate Shopper”.