Once someone is imprisoned, they are likely to lose many rights and privileges including access to government programs. A great majority of federal grants disqualify former prisoners, but some still make an effort to rehabilitate them back into society. Drug offenders, however, are prohibited from obtaining grant money. There are federal grant services that offer rehabilitation and welfare benefits to help former prisoners, and the ex-prisoners may also qualify for federal Stafford loans to fund their education.
Prisoner Reentry Initiative
In 2004, The Department of Labor funded the Prisoner Reentry Initiative, which offered competitive grants to community organizations that help rehabilitate former prisoners. Rehabilitation centers provide ex-prisoners with transitional services such as housing, training, and mentoring. Reentry programs have proven to be successful, having few members return to prison. PRI was meant to strengthen these programs. Since its inception, PRI received hundreds of grant applications, making it one of the most competitive grants, according to Govpro in 2006.
Second Chance Act
PRI was strengthened with the passing of the Second Chance Act which not only targets non-profit re-entry programs, but local government efforts as well. In 2010, $114 million was appropriated to prison-reentry programs.
The federal government also offers public assistance grants that former prisoners may qualify for. These grants include the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps. Each state determines the eligibility requirements for the grants, but most allow ex-prisoners to receive these benefits. Maine and Ohio provide a model for resisting a complete ban against former inmates receiving public assistance.
Aside from grants, former prisoners may qualify to take out a Stafford Loan for their education if they were not convicted of a drug offense. Stafford loans are a low-interest, tax-deductible option for paying college tuition. Two types of Stafford loans exist: subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are need-based, while unsubsidized loans are not. To qualify, the person must be enrolled at least half-time in school. They must also be U.S. citizens and not have a record of defaulted loans.
- prison wire image by robert mobley from Fotolia.com