A new bipartisan bill is seeking to pair inmates in need of re-entry programs with HBCUs! Learn more about how politicians would like to create the unique educational opportunity in the full story The Ripon Advance.

Bipartisan legislation to help formerly incarcerated Americans transition back into society and find employment will be introduced by U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-AR).

The congressman plans to introduce the Shift Back to Society Act with cosponsors, including U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), to establish a five-year pilot program that would provide grants to historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) for educational programming to eligible offenders to facilitate re-entry into the community, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmaker.

“All too often we lose sight of the intrinsic value of educational opportunities,” Rep. Hill said during an Aug. 6 press conference. “It is a fact that when all people are given opportunities and support, you get the best of America.”

Students at Plaquemines re-entry program(Credit: Scott Anger)

If enacted, the measure also would require matching funds for the grant program and funds from the federal government may not exceed 50 percent of the project cost, the summary says, and would provide an authorization that would not exceed $5 million annually.

“This bipartisan bill and the current efforts in Arkansas are too important – too vital – to the long-term viability and sustainability of a healthy, growing, prosperous America,” said Rep. Hill. “I thank those who have inspired this bill and our HBCUs for their legacy of and investment in quality education for Arkansans.”

During the press conference, Rep. Hill was joined by Robert Carr, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; Carlos Clark, president of Arkansas Baptist College; Solomon Graves, secretary of corrections at the Arkansas Department of Corrections; Jerome Green, president at Shorter College; Scott McLean, founder and executive director at Pathway to Freedom; Roderick Smothers, Sr., president at Philander Smith College; and TJ West, re-entry liaison at Pathway to Freedom.