Iowa Supreme Court takes a right turn under Gov. Reynolds

In this Feb. 20, 2019 photo, Christopher McDonald, center, who was appointment to the Iowa Supreme Court bu Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, left, speaks at the Iowa Capitol on Feb. 20, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Listening at right is Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg. Reynolds is transforming the Iowa Supreme Court from one that leaned left to a solidly conservative body, prompting concerns that it could erode past rulings on social issues.

The following editorial was published in the Fort Dodge Messenger on July 6:

Pioneer program gives inmates the tools they need to succeed on the outside

Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg traveled to the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City recently to meet some inmates who are working to create a better life for themselves after they’re released.

The inmates they met are participating in a program that’s different from the usual classes and counseling provided to inmates.

They are taking classes through Iowa Central Community College that will earn them an associate degree, and they’re doing so with the help of a new financial aid program called Second Chance Pell. Iowa Central is a pioneer in the Second Chance Pell program because it is one of just 65 schools in the United States that’s participating in it.

Second Chance Pell started three years ago. At the end of this year, Iowa Central expects to see its first graduates of the program receive their associate of arts degrees.

Second Chance Pell enables inmates who are within five years of release and who meet financial requirements to apply for federal Pell grants. Those grants are then used to pay for classes offered by Iowa Central.

Through this program, the college offers courses in logistics, welding, carpentry and culinary arts to inmates in the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility and the North Central Correctional Facility. So far, the welding and carpentry programs appear to be the most popular.

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The inmate students are serious about their classess and are doing well. The college reports that Second Chance Pell students have a grade-point average of about 3.5, while traditional students with Pell grants have a grade-point average of about 2.2.

State and Iowa Central officials have praised the program. But perhaps the best praise comes from an inmate student who’s benefitting from Second Chance Pell.

“This is giving us the tools we need once we get back out,” said Jesus Lozano, an inmate at the North Central Correctional Facility.

Second Chance Pell is a valuable program that has the power to change lives.

We thank Reynolds and the leadership of Iowa Central Community College for their support of Second Chance Pell. We hope it grows and becomes a fixture of inmate education programs in Iowa.

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