U.S. Department Of Education Creates Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Inmates to Earn College Degrees


The Department of Education announced a pilot program that will make some incarcerated people eligible for Pell Grants. (KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

Some people in state and federal prisons will be eligible for Pell Grants under a program announced Friday by the U.S. Department of Education. The Second Chance Pell Pilot Program aims to help the incarcerated “get jobs, support their families and turn their lives around,” the department said in a press release.

The Higher Education Act of 1965 established Pell Grants as a type of federally funded financial aid for college students that students do not need to repay. The government decides how much aid to award each student based on financial need, cost of the school, enrollment status and future enrollment plans. The maximum amount per student for the upcoming school year is $5,775.

In 1994, Congress passed a bill that made people in state and federal prisons ineligible for Pell Grants. By that time, according to The Washington Post, 25,168 of the 3.3 million students who received the grants were prisoners, costing the government $34.6 million of the $5.3 billion it spent on the program. Some politicians felt that slice was too much of the pie. “Law-abiding students have every right to be outraged when a Pell Grant for a policeman’s child is cut, but a criminal that the officer sends to prison can still get a big check,” a congressman said at the time.

On Friday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the press release: “America is a nation of second chances. Giving people who have made mistakes in their lives a chance to get back on track and become contributing members of society is fundamental to who we are—it can also be a cost-saver for taxpayers.”

Studies show that prison education programs help reduce recidivism rates, which in effect save taxpayer money. In its release, the Department of Education cites a 2013 RAND Corporation study, commissioned by the Department of Justice, which found that incarcerated people who participated in education programs were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than inmates who did not participate.

“We found that for every taxpayer dollar spent on correctional education, there is a five dollar savings due to released inmates desisting from crime and not returning to prison. From a straightforward public spending and public savings perspective, correctional education is a smart investment,” Robert Bozick, a sociologist at the RAND Corporation who worked on the study, said via email.

He added: “Many folks question the benefit of providing education to criminals. However, the reality is that the majority of incarcerated individuals in this country will be released back into the community, living and working in our neighborhoods. Therefore, preparing them to successfully integrate back into our communities and resist returning to crime is in everyone’s best interest.”

Without grants, incarcerated people must pay for their own education while behind bars, said Alex Friedmann, managing editor of Prison Legal News, a publication of the Human Rights Defense Center, a nonprofit group. “You have to be able to afford it and most students of course can’t afford it if they’re locked up because they make pretty low wages,” he said. “So this new development, which we heard about earlier this year, is certainly a welcome change.”

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Nigerian Army Frees 71, Mostly Women & Children, From Boko Haram

(photo: ibtimes.com)

(photo: ibtimes.com)

The ongoing clash between Nigeria‘s armed forces and the Islamist militants Boko Haram has been largely a one-sided affair with the terrorist group seemingly taking the upper hand. Earlier Thursday, the Nigerian Army announced a victory of sorts after reportedly freeing 59 women and children that were held by the heavily armed insurgents.

Nigerian publication The Sun reported from the city of Maiduguri, the largest in Borno State. The state has been a staging ground for some of Boko Haram’s most vicious attacks and the group has repelled much of the Nigerian military’s offensive maneuvers. Their most recent raid, however, yielded favorable results if reports hold true.

From The Sun:

The military has rescued another 59 hostages from Boko Haram hide-outs in Borno State during raids in what appeared like a renewed vigour to end insurgency in the northeast.

Authorities said troops raided two camps at Kashinbiri and Wallmeri, two remote communities in Konduga Local Government in the central part of the state. The area is also few kilometres to SambiSa, a major Boko Haram camp.

A Deputy Director, Army Public Relations and spokesman, 7 Division, Nigerian Army, Colonel Tukur Gusau, said the hostages include 25 children, 29 women and five elderly men.

“Troops of 151 Task Force Battalion conducted operations on Kashinbiri and Wallmeri Boko Haram terrorists camps on Wednesday. During the raids, quite a number of the terrorists were killed, a Landrover and a tipper were recovered. The troops also rescued 59 civilians that were held captive by the terrorist, they are 25 children, 29 women and five elderly men. The camps have been cleared by the troops,” he said at a news briefing in Maiduguri yesterday.

The rescue of the 59 individuals brings the army’s tally this week to 71. It was reported by the Associated Press that 12 women and girls were freed after forces stormed the city of Kilakisa, which sits 55 miles southwest of Maiduguri.

The Nigerian military said it freed hundreds back in March and seized many of the cities held by Boko Haram in the northeastern part of the country. The rebels have increased their number of attacks back at the military, yet with little in the way of considerable gain according to recent reports.

article by D.L. Chandler via newsone.com

Jamaica to Hold Nation’s First LGBT Pride Celebration in August

(Photo: autostraddle.com)

(Photo: autostraddle.com)

Jamaica is set to hold its first gay pride celebration next week. Security concerns prevent a parade, but organizers have planned a full week of events. This is monumental because Jamaica is a country that is known for extreme homophobia. According to the Human Rights Watch, Jam Rock’s LGBT population lives in constant fear, and anyone who listens to (and understands) dancehall may be familiar with anti-gay sentiment in a lot of the music where many artists make references to “burning the chi chi man,” etc. Marriage between men is is also illegal in the country, which is a holdover from British Colonial law.

However, the festivities will commence from August 1-8 in the nation’s capital city, Kingston. This is also concurrent with Jamaica’s Emancipation and Independence celebration. Festivities will include a flash mob, an opening ceremony, an art exhibition, an open mic night, a flag raising ceremony, and a coming out symposium that will feature allies to the community, reports the Advocate.

“We will pause the negative vibrations from anti-gay lobby groups and focus on the strides we have made as a community. More importantly, we will recommit to initiatives that see us moving forward as one community,” said  Latoya Nugent, the associate director of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG).

J-Flag’s Facebook page will have a full list of events.

This is a huge deal for the Caribbean. At the moment, Curacao is one of the few (if not the only) island that has a full on Gay Pride Week.

article by Starr Rhett Rocque via hellobeautiful.com

8 Year-Old Zion Harvey Becomes Youngest Recipient of Double Hand Transplant

8 Year-Old Zion Harvey (photo via newsone.com)

8 Year-Old Zion Harvey (photo via newsone.com)

An 8-year-old Baltimore boy who is being dubbed a medical phenomenon is looking forward to finally being able to play with his little sister and, hopefully, the new puppy he asked for.

And while Zion Harvey’s wishes seem simple enough, picking up his 2-year-old sister or eating a slice of pizza were both things he had difficulty doing after losing his feet and hands to sepsis as a toddler. But as the youngest patient to receive a double-hand transplant last month, the possibilities are endless.

While debuting his new digits at a Tuesday news conference, the little boy with wisdom beyond his years asked his family to stand so that he could thank them for helping him through his struggles.

“I want to say to you guys, thank you for helping me through this bumpy road,” he said.

The surgery, one of a few in a “small, but growing, transplant field, which has moved beyond internal organs,” the Baltimore Sun writes, was the first pediatric double hand transplant performed at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.

More than 100 people worldwide have received upper-extremity transplants since the first was performed in France in 1998, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“This is a monumental step,” said Scott Levin, chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Penn Medicine and director of the Hand Transplantation Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “I hope personally we can help many more patients like Zion in the future.”

Zion, who was already taking drugs to prevent his body from rejecting a kidney transplant he received at 4-years-old, was considered a good candidate for the hands. Doctors were less concerned that Zion would have a negative response to the drugs, since he had been exposed to them for a while.

Only about 15 children a year are eligible to donate hands, so doctors weren’t sure when one would become available. They had to find hands that were the right color and size for Zion. While waiting for a match, the surgery team practiced the procedure on cadavers. They developed a step-by step playbook for the day of surgery. Then the call came: Hands were available. Ray was both nervous and excited. Zion was preoccupied with plans for a sleepover he would now have to miss, and it wasn’t until he arrived at the hospital that reality hit.

“Mom, I think I am nervous now,” he recalls saying as he lay in a hospital bed that engulfed his small body.

“There is no need to be nervous,” Zion’s mother, Pattie Ray, responded. “This is a good thing.”

The painstaking surgery took about 10-hours to complete. Two days later, when Zion finally took a look at his new hands, he was beyond excited. And along with using his hands to do everyday activities, Zion is looking forward to finally being able to play football.

His mother, who called the sport “dangerous,” is probably less excited about throwing around a football, but says she just wants to see her child do well.

article via newsone.com

John Legend to Handle Music For WGN Slavery Drama “Underground”

WGN America says Legend and his production company will be in charge of the score and soundtrack for “Underground.”

The drama is in production in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It stars Aldis Hodge as the organizer of an escape effort by plantation slaves. Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Christopher Meloni co-star.

WGN America told a Television Critics Association meeting Wednesday that Legend’s company will also serve as an executive producer for the drama.

In a statement, Legend says he believes the story of people brave enough to risk everything for freedom will be inspirational.

He and rapper Common won an Oscar this year for writing and performing the song “Glory” from the civil rights movie “Selma.”

“Underground” will air in 2016 on WGN America.

article via blackamericaweb.com

Henry Davis Wins Appeal Against Ferguson Cops Who Beat Him; Can Now Sue for Excessive Force

Henry Davis was charged with bleeding on police officers' uniforms after Ferguson protests (photo: DailyBeast.com)

Henry Davis was charged with destruction of property for bleeding on police officers’ uniforms in Ferguson (photo: DailyBeast.com)

The Ferguson cops charged Henry Davis with destruction of property because he bled on their uniforms when they beat him.

Then, as if fearing it might be outdone in ridiculousness, a federal district court ruled that Davis could not sue the cops for violating his Fourth Amendment rights because they had not injured him badly enough as he lay handcuffed on the jailhouse floor, a working man arrested on a traffic warrant in a case of mistaken identity.

“As unreasonable as it may sound, a reasonable officer could have believed that beating a subdued and compliant Mr. Davis while causing only a concussion, scalp lacerations and bruising with almost no permanent damage did not violate the Constitution,” the district court ruled in tossing out the case.

Davis appealed and his attorney James Schottel responded to absurdity with legal reasoning. He argued that the decisive factor was not the seriousness of Davis’s injuries but the nature of the officers’ actions.

The district court had ruled that the officers enjoyed “official immunity” because they “acted within their discretion and caused only de minimis [slight] injuries.”

Schottel contended that official immunity “does not apply to discretionary acts done in bad faith or with malice.”

The appeals court could not have been clearer in its response on Tuesday.

“We agree.”

The court went on to say, “That an officer’s conduct caused only de minimis injuries does not necessarily establish the absence of malice or bad faith as a matter of law.”

In recapping the case, the appeals court noted that Davis had been arrested by Police Officer Christopher Pillarick early on the morning of September 20, 2009. Davis was brought to what the appeals court calls “the crowded Ferguson jail.” Pillarick and Police Officer John Beaird escorted Davis to a cell where the only bunk was occupied.

“Davis requested a mat from a nearby stack,” the court says. “Pillarick refused because Davis was not cooperating. Davis refused to enter the cell.”

The cops radioed for backup. Police Officer Kim Tihen and Police Officer Michael White responded, along with Sergeant William Battard.  “The deposition testimony differs dramatically concerning what happened next,” the court says. “It is undisputed that White pushed Davis into the cell and a short, bloody fight ensued.”

The court notes that there is no video of the incident, but there is “testimony supporting a claim that White, Beaird and Tihen each beat or kicked Davis after he was handcuffed and subdued on the floor of the cell.”

The lower court had contended that “a reasonable officer” could believe that in beating their handcuffed prisoner they were not violating the Constitution.  The court further notes, “After the incident, Beaird completed four complaints charging Davis with the offense of ‘Property Damage’ for transferring blood onto the uniforms of Beaird, Tihen, White, and Pillarick.”

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No Shootings Since ‘Army’ of Moms Formed by Tamar Manasseh Set Up on South Side – But They Need Help


Tamar Manasseh formed Mothers Against Senseless Killings and said she is looking for more volunteers. (DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson)

When Tamar Manasseh formed Mothers Against Senseless Killings to patrol the neighborhood in Englewood, IL after a murder in the 7500 block of South Stewart last month, she hoped to stop any retaliatory violence.  So far, in the five weeks since a man opened fire on three women on June 23, killing 34-year-old Lucille Barnes, there have been no shootings on the block or on the 7500 block of South Harvard where the patrols have also been set up, according to a DNAinfo Chicago map of shootings in the city.

“When you have sisters like sister Manasseh and others out here just participating, it makes a big difference,” said Johnny Banks, the executive director of the community organization A Knock at Midnight.

But Manasseh, who makes the trek daily from her home in Bronzeville to the neighborhood, said her group really needs more people in the area to join the effort, and that recruitment has been difficult.  “Recruiting and getting more volunteers has been quite the challenge,” Manasseh said as she sat on her folding chair on 75th Street and Stewart Avenue, watching over the block, not far from where she used to live at 55th Street and Bishop Avenue.


Tamar Manasseh sits with other volunteers keeping an eye on the neighborhood since a murder on June 23. (DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson)

Right now there are about 15 adult volunteers who have pledged to be out there every day until Labor Day. That’s about the same number the group had when it started a few days after the June shooting.

Manasseh said she didn’t think it would be this difficult to bring in more concerned residents.

“What we’ve learned since we’ve been out here is that people’s attention spans are short,” she said. “It’s hard to keep their interests between tragedies.”



Andrea Watson says organizers want moms to remain active:

The block and surrounding area where the “army of mothers,” as she refers to it, have set up have been peaceful since the group formed, she said, but the lack of adult volunteers surprised her.

“It’s like some people want to put their children in a bubble because they have good kids,” she said. “They want to separate their good kids from all of these bad kids, but your kids are going to grow up in the world alongside those very kids that you tried to shield them from. So wouldn’t it be better if you tried to save them all instead of just yours?”

She said she had higher expectations for the adults, but underestimated the teens from the neighborhood. At least two dozen teens have taken an interest in keeping their community safe and have taken part in the patrols, Manasseh said.

The ultimate goal is to get people on other blocks to follow her and start their own neighborhood patrols. She said she wants to hold an orientation in the near future to teach them conflict resolution and strategic placement.

Community policing in Englewood and on the South Side is important to Manasseh, she said, because she wants to help save her own children from becoming victims of the violence.

Chicago Police did not respond to a request for comment.

Banks’ group, which provides direct services such as workforce development, family advocacy and more to Englewood residents, encourages more adults to volunteer, but he said he understands why some might be hesitant.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “Our people are afraid so they don’t participate.”

He said that’s all the more reason the group of moms and others should be praised for their courage and determination.

Manasseh said although the neighborhood has changed since she was a child, she is holding on to one day seeing a better, safer community.  “It’s like Englewood is the land that time forgot,” she said. “It’s the land that has been forgotten, but I have hope, I see hope here.”

In addition to seeking more volunteers, she’s asking for water and any other donations, which can be dropped off daily between 4-8 p.m. at 75th and Stewart.

To help, people can visit Behindthemask.org.

article by Andrea V. Watson via dnainfo.com


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