Reps. Turner, Hill, Cohen, & Sewell Act to Assist Ex-Inmates as they Transition Back to Society

Rep. French Hill (AR-02), Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07), and I recently introduced the Shift Back to Society Act (H.R. 5016). This legislation provides grants to HBCU’s to create educational and career opportunities for previously incarcerated individuals reintegrating back into society. Post-introduction, we made the following statements:

“Rehabilitated individuals leaving incarceration deserve the opportunity to be successfully reintegrated into our communities and pursue the American dream. The pilot program created by this legislation has the capacity to reduce rates of recidivism, unemployment, and homelessness,” I said. “By providing federal funds to HBCU’s, we are investing in future career and educational opportunities for Americans seeking to turn their lives around. I urge my colleagues to support this vital initiative.”

“People need to be reunited with their families, with their kids, reunited with the dignity and success of work and reunited with their faith. All of those things take a bad turn in prison. Any American in good standing with the law, regardless of prior offenses, deserves the opportunity to succeed and improve their own lives through a job,” said Rep. Hill. “I thank my friends Rep. Sewell, Rep. Cohen, and Rep Turner for joining me in introducing this bipartisan bill. The Shift Back to Society Act, coupled with current efforts in Arkansas and across the nation are vitally important to the long-term viability and sustainability of a healthy, growing, prosperous America.”

“It is simply unacceptable that the United States continues to be the world’s largest jailer,” said Rep. Sewell. “To end this epidemic of mass incarceration, we must do everything in our power to ensure that our prisons serve as a pathway for rehabilitation, not recidivism. I’m proud to support this bill which would increase educational opportunities for incarcerated individuals through our nation’s HBCUs, which continue to provide the tools that all students need to achieve their educational and career potential. With this legislation, we’re breaking down barriers to success for those in the criminal justice system.”

“We need to ensure that when people get out of prison, they have a chance to become productive, law-abiding citizens. Too often people leaving prison face significant barriers and struggles to meet their basic needs. To reduce recidivism and allow those who have returned from prison to fulfill their potential, we must remove unnecessary barriers and expand educational opportunities. By expanding access to education at HBCUs, this bill will provide people with opportunities to not only survive but thrive after leaving prison,” said Rep. Cohen.

Further Background:

Specifically, this bill will:

  • Establish a 5-year pilot program to provide grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) for educational programming to eligible offenders to facilitate re-entry into the community.
  • Define eligible offenders as individuals that have been convicted of a criminal offense and have been released from incarceration for no more than one year; or are scheduled to be released within a year.
  • Require matching funds for the grant program, and funds from the federal government may not exceed 50 percent of the project cost.
  • Provide an authorization that will not exceed $5,000,000 annually.

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