Tonawanda News

Local News

February 19, 2014

College prison plan draws ire

Tonawanda News — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is planning a new statewide initiative to give prisoners the opportunity to earn a college degree by funding college classes in prisons across New York. 

The proposal would provide a college level education at 10 New York state prisons, one in each region of the state. The program would offer both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. 

“Giving men and women in prison the opportunity to earn a college degree costs our state less and benefits our society more,” Cuomo said. “New York state currently spends $60,000 per year on every prisoner in our system, and those who leave have a 40 percent chance of ending up back behind bars.

Existing programs show that providing a college education in our prisons is much cheaper for the state and delivers far better results. Someone who leaves prison with a college degree has a real shot at a second lease on life because their education gives them the opportunity to get a job and avoid falling back into a cycle of crime.”

However, the proposal is receiving widespread criticism from residents and politicians including state Sens. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, and Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo.

“I am incensed at this proposal, as are the constituents and taxpayers who have already contacted my office in large numbers,” Maziarz said. “The whole notion of rewarding bad behavior is completely backwards. It should be ‘do the crime, do the time,’ not ‘do the crime, earn a degree.’ It is simply beyond belief to give criminals a competitive edge in the job market over law-abiding New Yorkers who forgo college because of the high cost.”

The state spends $60,000 per year to incarcerate one person and approximately $3.6 billion in total costs for prisons. However, it costs approximately $5,000 per year to provide one year of college education for one inmate.  

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