"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.
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