Judge Nap on Tuition Grants for Inmates: Why Not Let the People Keep Their Money?
President Obama is moving toward reauthorizing Pell Grants for federal prison inmates as part of his broader push to overhaul the nation's prison system.
Pell grants, federal funding for low-income Americans to attend college, was prohibited from going to federal prisoners in 1994. Prisoners had received $34 million in the year prior.
The Wall Street Journal reported:
Between the mid-1990s and 2013, the U.S. prison population doubled to about 1.6 million inmates, many of them repeat offenders, Justice Department figures show. Members of both parties—including President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky—have called for a broad examination of criminal justice, such as rewriting sentencing guidelines.
A 2013 study by the Rand Corp. found that inmates who participated in education programs, including college courses, had significantly lower odds of returning to prison than inmates who didn’t.
Some congressional Democrats have proposed lifting the ban. Meanwhile, administration officials have indicated they would use a provision of the Higher Education Act that gives the Education Department the authority to temporarily waive rules, such as the Pell-grant ban, as part of an experiment to study their effectiveness.
Judge Andrew Napolitano said he agrees that the United States must move toward shrinking the prison population, but called this program "profoundly unconstitutional."
He said even the Pell grant system overall is out of step with the Constitution, which he said does not allow the government to use tax dollars to pay for college education.
"The concept of spending money to give [prisoners] a college education? I can think of better things that can be done with the people's money, like let them keep their own money and tax us less," he said.
Varney joked that in the judge's mind "everything under the sun" goes against the Constitution.
Watch the full back-and-forth above.