It’s no secret that our prison system is in desperate need of reform. One area that is often overlooked is education. Prisoners are not currently eligible for federal Pell Grants, which leaves them at a severe disadvantage when it comes to getting an education and reentering society. Fortunately, the US Department of Education is planning changing this according to their most recent press release.

Here are three reasons why we should extend Pell Grants to incarcerated individuals:

1. Education reduces recidivism rates.
One of the most compelling arguments for extending Pell Grants to incarcerated individuals is that it would reduce recidivism rates. According to a study by the Rand Corporation, inmates who participate in correctional education programs have a 43% lower chance of returning to prison than those who don’t receive any education while incarcerated.

2. Education gives prisoners hope for the future.
Incarcerated individuals often feel like they have no future and no hope. Access to education can change that by giving them the opportunity to better themselves and prepare for a life outside of prison.

3. Education saves taxpayers money in the long run.
It may seem counterintuitive, but investing in prisoner education actually saves taxpayers money in the long run. According to the Rand Corporation study mentioned above, every dollar spent on correctional education programs reduces incarceration costs by four dollars.

While this move by the Department of Education is a step in the right direction, the biggest challenge which has not be discussed is providing gainful employment to those prisoners that re-enter society.

The success of recidivism is wholly dependent on gainful employment and employment must be immediate. The longer an ex-prisoner must wait to join the workforce, the more likely they are to re-offend.

According to our own data, 82% of employers in the skilled trades are willing to hire an individual with a criminal background. Because of the labor shortage, the stigma of past crimes and mistakes is starting to fall away.

There is no better time than now to reform the educational options offered to prisoners while incarnated, but it has to be done right. Let’s hope that policy makers, organizations and companies across the US can come together to create pathways for employment upon prison sentence completion, not months after.