Press-Republican

Editorial

February 25, 2014

Editorial: College for inmates goes too far

Most people would agree that it would be desirable for inmates to get an education, instead of just staring at the walls.

But it shouldn’t happen at additional expense to taxpayers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently proposed funding college classes in prisons as a way to reduce recidivism.

Inmates can already earn their high-school equivalency while behind bars. And English language courses are offered. They can also learn a trade that can translate to a job after their release, such as carpentry, carpet installation, electrical, welding and technology.

But Cuomo wants to go further, proposing that prisoners be able to earn associate and bachelor’s degrees at 10 prisons, one in each region of the state. It would cost about $5,000 a year per inmate.

It’s not the concept that is faulty, in our opinion, but the ethics of offering taxpayer-funded tuition to incarcerated people when so many New York citizens — the ones living outside prison walls — can’t afford college for themselves or family members.

It already costs taxpayers about $60,000 annually to incarcerate each of the state’s 54,000 inmates.

The Governor’s Office said the state will request bids March 3 from educational associations that might want to take part in inmate education. The Associated Press says it is unclear whether Cuomo will need approval from the State Legislature.

One legislator who definitely doesn’t endorse the proposal is Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru), who told the Press-Republican she is “concerned about the use of that money when we have so many people struggling to pay for college.”

She suggests that, if the governor wants to combat recidivism, he should cancel the plan to close Chateaugay Correctional Facility this June. That prison is the only one in the state offering intensive instruction for parole violators, and the program produces an extremely low rate of repeat offenders.

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