Wyden Cosponsors Legislation to Promote Educational Opportunities for Incarcerated Americans

Washington, D.C.–  U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden said today he is cosponsoring legislation that would expand access to education for Americans in federal prisons by creating an office within the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) focused on correctional education and funding a new program to address the lack of educational opportunities now offered.

“Improving educational opportunities in prison helps to reduce recidivism rates, which benefits both the community and the people returning to it with the hope of finding jobs and becoming productive citizens,” Wyden said. “I’m gratified to cosponsor this bill supporting stronger education options that would equip Americans in federal prison with the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to their communities in Oregon and nationwide.”

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 more than 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 Promoting Reentry through Education in Prisons Act (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 target $170 million of BOP’s appropriations annually to this new office and 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.

In addition to Wyden, other senators cosponsoring the bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) are U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Chris Murphy (D-CT). Companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives has been introduced by U.S. Rep. 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 value of prison education cannot be underestimated. As corrections leaders, we know the impact it has on people and how it can transform their lives for the better,” said Anne Precythe, President of the Correctional Leaders Association (CLA) and Director of Corrections for Missouri.

The full text of the bill is here.

A web version of this release is here.