Readout of Office of Justice Programs Leadership Participation in Miami Second Chance Month and Community Violence Intervention Events
Office of Justice Programs Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon, Bureau of Justice Assistance Director Karhlton F. Moore and Bureau of Justice Statistics Director Alex Piquero this week joined Assistant Secretary of Education Amy Loyd, corrections officials, current and formerly incarcerated individuals, reentry advocates and leaders from Miami Dade College and the Vera Institute of Justice at an event in Miami, Florida, to commemorate Second Chance Month. PDAAG Solomon and Markenzy Lapointe, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, also participated in a separate site visit, roundtable and ceremony honoring front-line workers being certified as community violence intervention professionals with Miami’s Circle of Brotherhood.
The Second Chance Month event was led by BJA Second Chance Fellow Angel Sanchez, who earned his GED while incarcerated in the Florida Department of Corrections, later obtained his college and law degrees, is a licensed attorney in the District of Columbia and has been accepted as candidate for Master of Laws at Yale Law School to specialize his legal practice and academic scholarship on issues related to mass incarceration and collateral consequences. The event celebrated the upcoming reinstatement of federal Pell grant eligibility to incarcerated students. The 1994 crime bill banned people in correctional facilities from receiving Pell funding, but eligibility was restored when the Free Application for Federal Student Aid®, or FAFSA, Simplification Act became law in 2020, granting access to students in federal and state penal institutions and local and juvenile correctional facilities beginning in the 2023-2024 academic year.
“In every sense, this has been a collective achievement,” said PDAAG Solomon. “The impetus for Pell reinstatement came from incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students. And so many people—corrections officials and education professionals, reentry advocates, community organizers and national leaders like our partners at the Vera Institute of Justice—came together to see it through.”
Joining PDAAG Solomon, Director Moore and Assistant Secretary Loyd to deliver remarks at the Second Chance Month event were Patrick Mahoney and Michael Morgan of the Florida Department of Corrections, North Campus President of Miami Dade College Fermin Vazquez and Desmond Meade from the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. Following the remarks, Second Chance Fellow Sanchez facilitated a roundtable discussion with current and former Second Chance Pell students and corrections and education leaders.
“When I went to prison, the most I could achieve was a GED, but I was lucky to have older men who were Pell recipients before it was banned who mentored me and instilled in me the value of an education,” said Sanchez. “We did what we could to self-educate with shared textbooks and unaccredited correspondence courses paid by our families. I can only imagine the potential that will be unlocked with full Pell reinstatement. I have seen it many times—and I saw it again here in Miami—that people who once benefited from a second chance often go on to become second chance creators—trainers, mentors, employers and beacons of inspiration. The restoration of Pell funding will give that same opportunity to hundreds of thousands of incarcerated individuals who will now, finally, have the audacity to follow where their aspirations lead.”
The Department of Education launched the Second Chance Pell Experiment in 2015 to assess the feasibility of expanding Pell eligibility. More than 200 colleges from 48 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have participated, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance has supported technical assistance to colleges and corrections departments that participate in Second Chance Pell. More than 700,000 incarcerated students are expected to be eligible for Pell funding when full reinstatement takes effect July 1. Research has found that access to education in prison lowers the odds of recidivating by 43 percent and saves up to $5 for every $1 spent.
OJP is partnering with the National Reentry Resource Center throughout April to commemorate Second Chance Month. OJP is also continuing its substantial funding support for reentry programs this year, including through its Second Chance Act Community-Based Reentry Program and its new Second Chance Community-Based Reentry Incubator Initiative, which are now inviting applications.
During the roundtable at the Circle of Brotherhood, PDAAG Solomon joined OJP Senior Advisor for Community Violence Intervention Eddie Bocanegra to hear from members of the organization and cross-sector partners about collaborative efforts to reduce violence. They also participated in an awards ceremony recognizing staff who completed the Professional Community Intervention Training Institute, a certification program for community violence intervention and outreach workers. The Circle of Brotherhood is one of 47 recipients of grant funding under OJP’s Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative launched in 2022. The program provides youth development, mentorship, crime prevention, conflict resolution, mediation and educational services designed to interrupt cycles of poverty and violence.
Watch this video to learn more about community violence intervention strategies, and click here to find out about CVIPI programs funded by OJP. Also, check out the funding solicitation for this year’s Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative, which closes May 25.
About the Office of Justice Programs
The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, advance racial equity in the administration of justice, assist victims and enhance the rule of law.
More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.