As Morgan Godvin sat in county jail for two years awaiting federal sentencing, she wanted to further her education:
“For about half of my incarceration, I was unsentenced. I didn’t really know what that meant. I just knew that I had been in county jail for two years and it sucked. And there was just no programming available to me whatsoever.
I remember writing to every single one of my legislators…complaining about the fact that there were no educational opportunities available to me and just what an atrocity of justice that was.
Months went by, and I got a letter in the mail from [Oregon] Senator Jeff Merkley. And it was telling me, for the first time, that I was eligible for Pell, because I was unsentenced. So that whole time I was in jail, I could have been getting Pell and doing college classes. But no one knew to tell me that, until my United States Senator’s office wrote me back.
By the time I got that letter, I …was days away from getting sentenced. I just remember thinking, ‘But now it’s too late.’ And I was shipped off to federal prison, two months later.”
The Department of Education has clarified that under current rules, people who are incarcerated in local or county jails, or juvenile detention facilities, ARE eligible for Pell grants. The same applies to people in pretrial detention, or who are awaiting sentencing.
Since Morgan was released from federal prison in 2018, she’s created an impressive writing portfolio and recently graduated from Portland State University. She’s now the engagement editor for the American Prison Newspapers collection with JSTOR Daily
. Here’s what she has to say about her new job:
“I oversee a primary source archive, full of digitized newspapers produced by and for incarcerated people spanning two centuries.
We’ve been having the same conversations for 200 years. I find things in the archive from decades ago that are hauntingly similar to discussions around reform we’re having currently. From the use of solitary confinement to higher education in prison, the discourse seems to revolve more than it evolves.”
If you are interested in writing for JSTOR Daily using the archive (no unsolicited drafts please) or would like to be interviewed about policy shifts, you can email email@example.com .
JSTOR DAILY and Open Campus are collaborating on a project documenting the impact of the 1994 crime bill on prison education. If you’d like to share your story, please contact me or Morgan!