Representatives Cohen, Hill, Sewell and Turner Introduce Legislation to Improve Re-Entry for Formerly Incarcerated People

August 13, 2021
Press Release
Would expand educational opportunities at HBCUs

MEMPHIS – Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09), along with Representatives French Hill (AR-02), Terri Sewell (AL-07), and Mike Turner (OH-10), today introduced the Shift Back to Society Act. The bipartisan bill would establish a five-year grant pilot program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to provide educational programming for formerly incarcerated people to expand their professional opportunities, reduce recidivism, and facilitate re-entry in communities. 

“We need to ensure that when people get out of prison, they have a chance to become productive, law-abiding citizens,” said Representative Cohen. Too often formerly incarcerated people 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.” 

“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 Representative 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 Representative 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.”

“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,” said Representative Turner. “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.”

“Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) have been on the leading edge of social justice initiatives for over 180 years and for our country to successfully tackle all of the challenges that we still face it is critical that HBCUs are intentionally engaged by the federal government to continue their consequential work,” added Thurgood Marshall College Fund President and CEO Dr. Harry L. Williams.  “The Shift Back to Society Act provides funding for HBCUs to enhance the life-changing work that our schools are already doing to reduce recidivism rates in our communities.  We are grateful to Rep. Hill and Rep. Cohen for their leadership in sponsoring this thoughtful piece of legislation.” 

 

Additional Background: 

The Shift Back to Society Act would: 

  • 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 cap federal funding at 50 percent of the project cost; and 
  • Provide an authorization that will not exceed $5,000,000 annually 

MEMPHIS – Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09), along with Representatives French Hill (AR-02), Terri Sewell (AL-07), and Mike Turner (OH-10), today introduced the Shift Back to Society Act. The bipartisan bill would establish a five-year grant pilot program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to provide educational programming for formerly incarcerated people to expand their professional opportunities, reduce recidivism, and facilitate re-entry in communities. 

“We need to ensure that when people get out of prison, they have a chance to become productive, law-abiding citizens,” said Representative Cohen. Too often formerly incarcerated people 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.” 

“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 Representative 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 Representative 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.”

“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,” said Representative Turner. “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.”

“Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) have been on the leading edge of social justice initiatives for over 180 years and for our country to successfully tackle all of the challenges that we still face it is critical that HBCUs are intentionally engaged by the federal government to continue their consequential work,” added Thurgood Marshall College Fund President and CEO Dr. Harry L. Williams.  “The Shift Back to Society Act provides funding for HBCUs to enhance the life-changing work that our schools are already doing to reduce recidivism rates in our communities.  We are grateful to Rep. Hill and Rep. Cohen for their leadership in sponsoring this thoughtful piece of legislation.” 

 

Additional Background: 

The Shift Back to Society Act would: 

  • 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 cap federal funding at 50 percent of the project cost; and 
  • Provide an authorization that will not exceed $5,000,000 annually

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