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Airline travel and more disrupted by global tech outage; Nevada gets OK to sell federal public lands for affordable housing;Science Moms work to foster meaningful talks on climate change; Scientists reconsider net-zero pledges to reach climate goals.

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As Trump accepts nomination for President, delegates emphasize themes of unity and optimism envisioning 'new golden age.' But RNC convention was marked by strong opposition to LGBTQ rights, which both opened and closed the event.

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It's grass-cutting season and with it, rural lawn mower races, Montana's drive-thru blood project is easing shortages, rural Americans spend more on food when transportation costs are tallied, and a lack of good childcare is thwarting rural business owners.

VA can bolster higher education access for incarcerated people

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Friday, May 3, 2024   

Virginia advocates believe more can be done to make higher education accessible to incarcerated people.

Only a handful of community colleges partner with less than half of the state's correctional facilities to help people obtain associate's degrees.

In 2023, incarcerated people became eligible for federal Pell Grants, supporting tuition costs for low-income individuals.

Terri Erwin, director of the Virginia Consensus for Higher Education in Prison, an initiative of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, said the General Assembly can help grow the programs.

"I think that the General Assembly can be kind of a third leg in the stool in supporting the collaboration as it develops between the Department of Corrections and the institutions of higher education," Erwin asserted. "What might be needed depends in part on how those relationships develop."

Higher education's shift to technology was one big challenge in maintaining this access during the pandemic. She noted Virginia did not pivot the same way, yet technology solutions in states such as Tennessee and Maine provided secure learning management and intranet access to incarcerated students. Despite the challenges, higher education in prison has grown nationwide in recent years.

Studies show some benefits of these programs are a 43% reduction in recidivism and a 13% increase in post-release employment. Erwin emphasized the programs can be transformative for people.

"It's an opportunity to reenter society with just one more similarity to folks who have been on the outside all along," Erwin pointed out. "It helps to move past some of the stigma. It gives them a hook to put their hat on as they move forward in looking for jobs and telling the story about who they are."

Formerly incarcerated people reentering society face numerous obstacles. Programs such as SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are proven to reduce recidivism by 10% but having a criminal background disqualifies someone's eligibility for both social programs and unemployment insurance.


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