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Cuomo: Free College for Convicts

Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison runs a program at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining.
Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison runs a program at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining.
The Prison U. program proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo would offer a college education to some inmates at 10 of New York's 70 state prisons, according to media reports.

"We're imprisoning, we're isolating, but we're not rehabilitating the way we should. We're not correcting the way we should, we're not improving the way we should. We are starting a negative cycle that begets a negative cycle," Cuomo said at a Sunday church service in Albany, according to WKBW News. 

The proposal infuriated State Sen. Greg Ball and other more conservative politicians.

"Hell no!" said Ball, dubbing the plan 'Attica University' in a press release. "While I understand the need for counseling and rehabilitation, free college tuition for prisoners is a slap in the face to hard working New Yorkers that work multiple jobs and take out exorbitant student loans to pay for higher education."

The initiative would provide college level education at 10 New York State prisons at a cost of approximately $5,000 per inmate per year. The college courses would be offered at 10 state prisons and include both associate and bachelor’s degrees, according to the New York Post. Cuomo did not specify how much money he would designate for the program or how many inmates could enroll at a time. 

Sean Pica, who runs Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, told Gannett's Albany Bureau that he backs Cuomo's proposal. 

Hudson Link is a Westchester County-based charity founded in 1998, after New York state and federal funding for college education in prisons ceased, according to its website

"There is compelling evidence that an investment in higher education is the most effective way to reduce re-incarceration and crime rates, lessen the taxpayer’s burden, and make prisons safer and more manageable," Hudson Link says. "Higher education opens doors to job opportunities and creates better transitions upon release, helping formerly incarcerated men and women become productive and valued members of their families and their communities." 

New York spends $60,000 per year to incarcerate one person and approximately $3.6 billion in total costs for prisons. There are an estimated 54,500 inmates currently confined in state prisons, according to news reports.

Ball and other opponents of the plan launched a petition drive you can see by clicking here.

What's your take? Tell us in the comments.









Aidan February 20, 2014 at 07:24 AM
Will their degree say "The University of Attica" and "Sing Sing College"? I can see the job interview plain as day: "So, what did you major in at Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional College?" "Fine Arts … tattooing."
George Datino February 21, 2014 at 06:39 AM
Cuomo said, "We're imprisoning, we're isolating, but we're not rehabilitating the way we should. We're not correcting the way we should, we're not improving the way we should. We are starting a negative cycle that begets a negative cycle". Mr. Cuomo, they did this to themselves. They started the cycle when they decided to break the law.
Craig Noor February 21, 2014 at 09:10 AM
Mr. Datino, the idea is to take prisoners OFF the "negative cycle". Which would you rather have in your midst - a former prisoner who has gained the ability to be a productive member of society, or one who has just been hardened into more criminal activity during his prison stay?
Craig Noor February 21, 2014 at 09:11 AM
Aidan, as an educator it is surprising to see you make light of this plan - you must know of the value of education in turning people's lives around - although you are so bitter at times that maybe you don't.
George Datino February 21, 2014 at 09:47 AM
Mr. Noor, I would be much more in favor of rewarding the law abiding citizens with a free education than rewarding people who have broken the law. Now, if the prisoners want to earn the money at doing real hard labor that would benefit the citizens of the state then they could pay for the benefit themselves. Similar to what the folks who don't break the law have to do in order to pay for their education.
Aidan February 22, 2014 at 09:28 AM
Mr. Noor, as a pragmatist I see the dumbness of this in terms of priorities.
Craig Noor February 22, 2014 at 01:21 PM
Mr. Datino, I support your idea of inmates doing productive work to help to pay for their education. Too, the costs and benefits must be considered - it costs a heck of a lot of money to keep someone in prison, and there are many means of providing the same individual with a low-cost education that will enable the individual to become a productive member of society. Aidan, it only seems like a bad sense of priorities if you don't look at the whole picture - including as I mentioned the cost-benefit analysis, and what is the best for all involved. Thank you, gentlemen, for your comments in any event.
JJ February 23, 2014 at 09:44 AM
Wow, commit a crime, or maybe several crimes, get 3 meals a day, a place to sleep and a college education too? This might NOT seem like much to those of us blogging but it's like hitting the lottery for some of these people. Having had some experience in this arena (and trust me it is an arena at times); these guys would rather watch TV, play cards or work out than go to school. Rehabilitation? From the myriad of reports I've read the NY Sate recidivist rate is somewhere around 45% plus. We're better off putting them to work on road crews, cleaning up the environment or teaching them a skill. At least the Taxpayer's are getting their monies worth out of them. Remember that they're in prison because of their "own" choices not yours or mine.

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