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Letter to the Editor: Regarding the article ‘Federal official touts Missouri as example of prison reentry efforts on state tour’

As educators dedicated to helping everyone in our great state reach their full potential, we were pleased to see Missouri’s Department of Corrections (DOC) receive praise for collaborating with other state agencies to ensure those who are released from prison are on a path to success.

However, we think another example of Missouri’s prison reentry efforts also deserves praise: The DOC has demonstrated a commitment to postsecondary education opportunities in prison through relationships with multiple colleges and universities. Ozarks Technical Community College is proud to now be one of these institutions, as we were recently selected to join the U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell initiative, which allows incarcerated students access to Pell Grants. Research shows that people in prison who participate in postsecondary education programs are 48 percent less likely to recidivate, and they are able to secure better-paying jobs upon release.

While OTC was pleased to be selected for this national initiative, we believe that access to Pell Grants should be available to all incarcerated people, not just those in a Second Chance Pell initiative. It’s time for Congress to lift the ban on Pell Grants for people in prison — policymakers on both sides of the aisle agree that this is a common-sense next step in criminal justice reform.

Dr. Hal Higdon
Chancellor of the Ozarks Technical Community College System and president of the OTC Springfield Campus