February 17, 2014

Gov. Cuomo Set To Announce Program To Fund College Courses For Prison Inmates

2-17-2014 New York:

Hoping to cut down on recidivism rates, Gov. Cuomo on Sunday morning will announce that the state will again begin funding college courses for inmates.

"Giving men and women in prison the opportunity to earn a college degree costs our state less and benefits our society more," Cuomo says.

He is prepared to make the announcement late Sunday morning at a church event in Albany tied to this weekend’s state legislative Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Conference. Currently, New York inmate population is 49.2% African American, 24% Hispanic, and 24.1% white.

Prison inmates are eligible for mainly high school-level courses.

They used to be eligible for federal and state tuition college assistance money until the program was stopped by then Gov. George Pataki in 1995.

A small program known as the Bard Prison Initiative, that is privately funded, provides college-level courses to a small group of inmates at six prisons across the state.

Cuomo aides say that recidivism rates for those who went through the Bard initiative is 4%, compared to overall 40% for rate statewide.

Under the Cuomo measure, the state will fund college programs in 10 prisons that encompass every region of the state. It’s unclear just how much the program will cost.

But Cuomo notes that it costs $60,000 to a house a prisoner each year compared to $5,000 annually to provide them college education. If such programs can cut down on recidivism, the state will see big savings, he said.

“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,” Cuomo said.

The state will soon send out requests for proposals to education associations that provide college professors and classes that are interested in running the program.

The program, which will offer associate and bachelor’s degrees, could take up to three years to complete.

The plan won praise from a group of minority lawmakers.

“With the opportunity to earn a college degree while in prison, incarcerated individuals will stand a much better chance of successfully integrating back into society when they are released,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara, the Brooklyn Democrat who chairs the legislative Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic caucus. “A higher level of education will support these men and women in moving forward with their lives, as opposed to returning to criminal activity and prison.”

Glenn Martin, president and Founder of JustLeadershipUSA, said he hopes other governors throughout the country will follow Cuomo’s lead. ..Source.. by Ken Lovett

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