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By Kathryn Wing
April 10, 2014
Credit : AP/Bebeto Matthews.


Last Tuesday, the New York state legislature passed its budget for the new fiscal year, and $137.9 billion was approved that included and a $1.1 billion boost in education aid and a series of tax cuts for businesses, banks and manufacturers.   

Not included was Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to provide college courses for state prisoners. The proposal, which was initiated in February, is now expected to be financed through charities and non-profit funding.

The plan received much criticism by Cuomo’s political counterparts, such as State Senator Michael Nozzolio (R) who voiced his concern of using public money to fund inmates’ higher education.

“Until every student that obeys the law gets a free college education, I think it’s inappropriate for taxpayers to spend money on college educations for those who have broken the law,” Nozzolio said.

Many agree with this sentiment.

When the numbers are crunched, however, the Governor’s office predicts it will actually save tax payers dollars. Teresa A. Miller, a professor at University at Buffalo Law School who has studied and filmed extensively inside New York State Prisons, further explains this.   

Miller points out that currently New York has a recidivism rate of 40 percent and the average prisoner costs the state $60,000 a year. Under Cuomo’s plan, each prisoner receiving a college education would cost an additional $5,000 but would decline the recidivism rate to four percent; therefore, saving tax payers money in the long run.

“College coursework appears to be not just the right thing to do, but a cost-effective means of reducing crime,” Miller said. “For every $1 invested in education in prison, taxpayers save $2 in re-incarceration costs.”

Although the New York budget does not include Cuomo’s proposal, the idea has struck up enough of a sentiment for some private funds to consider this alternative a worthy challenge.

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