Thank you, Director [Patrick] Mahoney and Director [Michael] Morgan. I am so pleased to be here and grateful to you and everyone at the Florida Department of Corrections for your collaboration on this event.
I want to thank Assistant Secretary [Amy] Loyd and our colleagues at the Department of Education for joining us today and for the longtime collaboration. And my deep appreciation to President [Fermin] Vazquez for his commitment to the Second Chance Pell Program and to Desmond Meade for his outstanding vision and leadership.
Of course, I want to acknowledge my wonderful colleague, Karhlton Moore, and his incredible team in our Bureau of Justice Assistance, for leading our work to support educational opportunities for incarcerated students. And my thanks, as well, to our amazing partners at the Vera Institute of Justice, who helped to pull this event together and were with us on the ground floor of Second Chance Pell.
I particularly want to commend the currently and formerly incarcerated students who are part of today’s discussion—with a special shout out to Angel Sanchez. Angel earned his GED while incarcerated in the Florida Department of Corrections, and he went on to obtain his college and law degrees. Angel is now working with us at the Department of Justice as a Second Chance Fellow. Angel is an inspiration, and he embodies the success we know is possible and that we wish for incarcerated students across the country. I’m proud to call him colleague and excited that he’ll be leading our roundtable conversation a little later.
I cannot tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to this day. I was fortunate to be at the launch of the Second Chance Pell initiative back in 2015, in my role as executive director of President Obama’s Federal Interagency Reentry Council. It was an event not unlike this one, at the Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland—so incredibly moving and inspiring. Sixty-seven colleges in 28 states started Second Chance Pell sites in that first year of the program.
The momentum has continued to build. With the roll-out of the third wave of sites a year ago, more than 200 colleges in 48 states, DC and Puerto Rico are now hosting Second Chance Pell programs.
And here we are today at one of those sites, on the cusp of full-scale Pell implementation—something that was almost unimaginable eight years ago! It was planned for, hoped for, dreamed of… but it was in no way a guarantee. And yet here we are!
In every sense, this has been a collective achievement. 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.
Together, we brought Pell grants back into the discussion after being off the table for more than 20 years. Together, we made the case that postsecondary education improves the likelihood of reentry success. And research bears this out—it’s strongly associated with reductions in recidivism, and it pays for itself four times over. And, just as important, it unlocks potential and opens the door to individual growth and development.
And it has a multi-generational benefit. Kids are more likely to go to college or trade school when their parents do, so a postsecondary education can actually create a legacy of academic participation that carries over to one’s children and grandchildren.
I’m proud of the role that the Office of Justice Programs has played. Our Bureau of Justice Assistance has been working steadily over the years with the Department of Education and Vera to provide high-quality technical assistance to colleges and corrections departments that participate in the Second Chance Pell program.
We are also supporting a broad range of reentry efforts in communities across the country. We’ve awarded more than a thousand adult and juvenile reentry grants under funding from the Second Chance Act, and we’ll be making more awards later this year, including a new program I’m very excited about called the Second Chance Community-based Reentry Incubator Initiative. This new program will help break down barriers to federal resources by funding intermediary organizations that will then deliver subawards to small community-based reentry providers. They’ll also provide hands-on technical assistance to help these CBOs grow their capacity to deliver support for people returning home.
We are so excited by this new dimension of Second Chance funding as we work to strengthen the community-based ecosystem of reentry services and support. The solicitation is now live, and we are eagerly awaiting proposals from the field.
So there is much to celebrate, yet still so much left to accomplish. I hope that we can take full advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity and make good on the promise of Pell. You’ve got our commitment. We owe it to everyone seeking a second chance.
Thank you all for helping to bring us to this moment.