cpz 3648


SPRINGFIELD – After the Higher Education in Prison Task Force conducted a yearlong analysis of the current higher education opportunities for people who are incarcerated, Task Force members State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas and State Representative Carol Ammons have proposed changes based on the results of the study to improve educational opportunities for people who are incarcerated.

“It can be challenging for people who are incarcerated to come back to their communities or find work after serving time,” said Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “Offering college courses or a path to get a degree while in prison can  ease this transition and promote rehabilitation instead of punishment. However, there needs to be more transparency and accountability for these programs as reports have demonstrated they are not accessible to folks who are qualified.”

Over the past year, the Illinois Higher Education in Prison Task Force has been analyzing the existing state of higher education programs for people who are incarcerated. This study assessed barriers and opportunities potential students may face, and used evidence gathered to propose ways existing programs can be improved to better support people seeking further education.

House Bill 3648 would continue the work of the task force by requiring the Illinois Department of Corrections to release a report including data such as student enrollment, completion rates, demographics, and educational program spending. It also requires the colleges and universities offering classes to people in prisons to report the academic information of each student to the Board of Higher Education. Both of these reports must also be published online to improve transparency of the program and determine areas where the programs can become more accessible.

“Proper access to higher education programs while incarcerated is one step in the right direction towards rehabilitation,” said State Representative Ammons (D-Champaign), who carried the legislation through the House. “This bill is a hope for incarcerated people that they will be able to secure living-wage jobs much sooner upon release.”

“While we have made steps to better support people who are incarcerated during their time in prison to enter the workforce once they are released, there are still barriers that prevent folks who have interest in these programs from being able to access them,” said Pacione-Zayas. “I hope that this legislation will highlight areas that need to be improved in the current system so that more people can access these life-changing educational resources.”

House Bill 3648 passed the Senate on Thursday.