When we started working with Vera in 2017 to expand access to postsecondary education in prison, we worked out a five-year timeline. We would focus on promoting research and elevating awareness about the benefits of postsecondary education in prison and the need for incarcerated people to access Pell Grants, all while trying to change state policies to provide more financial support and generate momentum for federal action. Two years in, we expanded our focus to the U.S. Congress and efforts to lift the federal ban on Pell Grants. 

Our campaign garnered bipartisan support for lifting the ban and spurred policy shifts in states including New Jersey, Michigan, Tennessee and North Carolina. Our campaign efforts generated nearly 150 national and regional media stories, leveraged organic social media to demonstrate broad bipartisan support for lifting the ban, and activated influential grasstops leaders to reach out to key members of Congress. And in December 2020, Congress voted to lift the ban on Pell Grants for incarcerated people. 

This policy victory means that, once fully implemented, approximately 450,000 incarcerated students will have the opportunity to access life-changing postsecondary educational programs.

In December 2020, op-eds we placed on behalf of the Vera Institute of Justice in Politico, The Washington Post and Kentucky’s Courier-Journal (Sen. McConnell’s hometown paper) made up three of the top four results when you searched for “Pell Grants” in Google News.