The penal system is so focused on punishment it has lost sight of rehabilitation.
For instance, when someone receives a felony drug charge, it should not prevent him or her from receiving federal financial aid for college, but it does.
Financial aid should be offered as an incentive for the felon to turn his or her life around, not to further punish that person.
If these men and women could afford to pay for college, chances are they would not have been charged with a drug felony. If you can’t go to school or get a job that pays a living wage, then what choice do you have?
Denying financial aid is not a crime deterrent. It is actually an excuse to go back to life on the street. Also, it reasonably stands that the lack of education and the perceived lack of opportunity leads people down the felonious path to begin with.
A positive solution to this problem would be to make school or vocational attendance a condition of parole. The general equivalence diploma and vocational programs are already offered in jails and prison. So, if the felon demonstrates an eagerness and ability to learn, why should financial aid for continuing education be denied?
The prison system pushes inmates outside of the fence with a “good luck” and a “God bless.” Why not give them at least the hope for, and maybe even a chance at a better life?
Once these felons have served their time for drug charges, they have paid their debt to society, and ultimately, no one should be denied the chance to learn.
Theresa E. Davis is a junior public relations student from Jacksonville. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org