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Cuomo’s Inmate College Tuition Plan Gets Local Pushback

Written By: Candice Cole
Inmate College

    ELMIRA---(WENY) Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced his plans to give new york prison inmates a chance at a college education.
     It's a move he says is a step in the right direction, but many state and local leaders aren't so sure, including Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli. He says, "I just think in these difficult times, it's money not well spent."
     Governor Cuomo wants to spend roughly $5,000.00 a year, per inmate at 10 state prisons, for a college education.
     Right now, the state spends about $60,000.00 a year in prison costs for each inmate, which comes to about $3.6 billion combined.
     Governor Cuomo says his program will greatly reduce the rate at which inmates return to jail, which stands at 40%. It may sound like a great idea, but not everyone agrees.
      Santulli says, "Just because you give somebody some education, doesn't mean that it changes their moral fiber, their character, or what they're all about."
     This isn't the first time something like this has been done. Prison inmates had once been eligible for tuition assistance to attend state colleges until it was stopped by Governor George Pataki in 1995. Currently the State Department of Corrections has been partnered with colleges to offer privately funded degree programs since 2007.
     However, many feel the tax-payer money that would go toward Governor Cuomo's program, could go towards battling bigger issues.
     Santulli says,"We spend so much money, I believe getting people to change their behavior, when we spend not enough money on law enforcement keeping our streets safe"
      Garrett Conover is a retired corrections officer who says, "The money would be better spent on the issues with safety we're facing in the facilities, not to close the facilities." Facilities like Monterey Shock Camp, a military-style boot camp aimed at helping inmates turn their lives around. But, despite an arduous fight to keep the Shock Camp open, it saw its last graduating class this January.
     Conover says programs like Monterey Shock are what really help to reduce the recidivism rate.
     Though the Governor's plan may be rooted in good intention, New York Tax payers are pushing back, so much that two state senators have posted online petitions opposing the program.
     And, here locally, New York Senator Tom O'Mara is taking a poll for residents to weigh in on the issue. If you would like to participate in Sen. O'Mara's Poll, visit: http://www.nysenate.gov/press-release/do-you-support-governor-cuomos-plan-provide-college-education-state-prison-inmates-sha