Tonawanda News

Local News

February 19, 2014

College prison plan draws ire


Tonawanda News — “In announcing the prison-to-college proposal, it is worth noting that the administration couldn’t even put a (total) price tag on the scheme,” Maziarz said. “So if the governor thinks the state can afford this, I have a million and one other ideas for how we can use taxpayer dollars more effectively — starting with economic development, job creation and tax relief.”

But Cuomo points to studies that have shown investing in college education for prisoners dramatically decreased recidivism rates while saving tax dollars on incarceration costs. Those who earn a college degree while in prison are less likely to end up behind bars again, therefore decreasing the number of inmates in New York state prisons, according to Cuomo. New York’s current recidivism rate is 40 percent.

Since the discontinuation of PELL and TAP grants in 1994 and 1995, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has supported using private funds for post-secondary education for prisoners. To further enhance the college program, the department developed a model in 2007 that established working partnerships between a correctional facility, a collegiate institution in the same geographic region and, an outside, private funding source.

But it is the cost to the taxpayers that has many upset.

“For our state to demand that taxpayers foot the bill for the college education of prison inmates is a huge slap in the face to those families who are playing by the rules and struggling to make ends meet so they can have a brighter future,” Maziarz said. “These are the New Yorkers who should enjoy greater opportunities to attend college. My constituents can be assured that I will do all I can to see that this proposal is defeated.”

Grisanti has started an online petition against the proposal.

“I have been outspoken against this issue because I feel, along with many Western New Yorkers, that we should put the needs of hardworking, law-abiding citizens who are positively contributing to society first,” Grisanti said. “I will continue to fight for the reinstatement of TAP funds before I even begin to entertain the idea of supporting this program.”

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