Higher Ed Committee Recommends Passage of Bill Creating Prison Education Program Office


Today, the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee voted to recommend the passage of legislation that would create a prison education program office, facilitating prison education programs in correctional facilities statewide, while also providing students with protections against discrimination or judgment during the college admissions process.

House Bill 6228, "An Act Prohibiting Institutions of Higher Education From Inquiring About A Prospective Student's Criminal History During The Admissions Process And Establishing A Prison Education Program Office," would establish the Prison Education Program Office within the Department of Correction. That office would be tasked with allowing higher education to host education program at state prisons, creating partnerships with colleges and universities for such programs and providing access to resources needed for completing such education programs such as classrooms and study areas.

The Prison Education Program Office would also work with colleges or universities to develop academic and student service plans for such a program, find financial aid solutions for students, provide educational accommodations for students with disabilities and provide reentry services for students so they can access education upon release from prison.

Additionally, unless otherwise required by state or federal law, no college or university in Connecticut would be allowed to ask about an applicant's prior arrests, criminal charges or convictions upon application or enrollment, or consider such history in the admissions or financial aid process.

"We need to prevent recidivism by preparing incarcerated people for success after they are released. That means providing opportunities to pursue higher education, since we know post-secondardy degrees are increasingly critical in a 21st century economy," said State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport), Senate Chair of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. "By creating an office of post-secondary prison education, we can make sure that federal pell grants are put to good use here in Connecticut. Banning the box in college applications will help make sure that no one suffers from a lifetime sentence of discrimination after having served their time."

“The road to rehabilitation requires us to give people the tools to succeed," said State Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven), Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee. "The Prison Education Program Office will further our goal of giving people in correctional facilities a better chance at obtaining the skills they need to reenter society. I thank the committee for moving this critical bill forward today.”

"It is the state's responsibility to uplift and support its citizens as they re-enter society," said State Representative Robyn Porter (D-Hamden), who introduced the bill. "Access to education is fundamental to success in society today; and it is, therefore, essential that we provide the necessary educational support for a successful re-entry. In addition, this bill is particularly important to providing equity within communities of color, which are disproportionately targeted by the justice and prison systems. Right now, our system is set-up in a way which does not advance the futures of those impacted by the justice system. We need a system that levels the playing field and puts them on a path to prosperity."

“The lens with which we view incarceration is changing," said State Rep. Josh Elliott (D-Hamden), House Chair of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. "95 percent of folk who end up in prison will re-enter society, and it is the State’s prerogative to ensure that they are successful. Increasing access to higher education in our prison facilities means that people will be less likely to recidivate - but more importantly, they will re-enter the workforce with skills and direction increasing the likelihood of success."

The legislation now heads to the House and Senate floors.