Warden Daniel Paramo of the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJDCF) recently went to Washington D.C. to participate in The Second Chance Pell Pilot program.
At this program Warden Paramo had the opportunity to meet with the U.S. Seretary of Education John B. King, and others to discuss national best practices for education in a correctional facility.
Warden Paramo said, “the primary message from the event is that even though it might cost money up front to educate the inmate population before their release, it will save taxpayer dollars in the long run because studies have shown inmates that complete education while in prison are less likely to recidivate.”
Warden Paramo was impressed with Secretary King’s message of hope and triumph of overcoming momentous obstacles in life to become the most influential educator in the country. Secretary King’s story reminds us all the power an education can provide.
Through the Second Chance Pell Pilot program, the U.S. Department of Education will offer inmates within five years of release up to $5,775. Inmates had previously been excluded from Pell Grants, till President Barak Obama last year changed the law with his temporary pilot program. Under the Higher Education Act, the secretary of education can waive such restrictions to conduct pilots.
For the last year, RJDCF partnered with Southwestern College to provide face to face college education for the inmate population. The first classes were financial literacy and geography courses and it has grown from there.
It was well received by the inmates and they are looking forward to the additional support from the Second Chance Pell Pilot program. Southwestern College has been a great community partner with RJDCF and has significantly helped the inmate population on their path of rehabilitation.
Kathy Tyner, the college’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, said the Pell Grants will provide funding for books and materials, a major sticking point as the college looked to expand courses at the prison. Beginning next semester, more Southwestern faculty will travel to the prison to conduct classes.
Inmates will take courses to qualify for an associate’s degree in business administration.
“It’s in the interest of all of our communities to provide education for these students so that when they get out they don’t go back to a life of crime, but they actually can get jobs that provide living wages,” Tyner said.