Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today his controversial plan to fund college courses for prisoners will now be funded through non-profits and charities.
Cuomo and legislative leaders gathered Tuesday morning to mark the passage of the state’s fourth consecutive on-time budget, which was passed late Monday ahead of a midnight deadline. The state’s new fiscal year begins today.
But Cuomo’s proposal to use state money to provide a free college education to inmates in 10 state prisons was left out of a final agreement, and Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said last week that Cuomo hadn’t brought it up during negotiations.
At a news conference this morning, Cuomo said the plan will move forward, but will be privately funded and run by non-profits. Some charities already run similar programs in the state, including one at Bard College, which Cuomo has cited as an example
“There was a feeling, primarily in the Senate, that we should not be using public funds to provide college courses in prison, that many families are struggling to pay for college and we shouldn’t be using public funds to provide college courses in prison,” Cuomo said. “I understand the sentiment. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it and I understand the appearance of it.”
Cuomo announced his college-in-prison plan in February, but while it was embraced by some Democrats, it was immediately panned by mostly Republicans in the Legislature.
After a private negotiating session last week, Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, called it a “non-starter.”
Cuomo has made the case that it would actually save taxpayers money, given that programs such as the one at Bard have shown dramatically reduced recidivism rates among those prisoners who participate.
“It actually saves taxpayers money because the recidivism rate is so much lower when you provide education in prison for an inmate,” Cuomo said Tuesday.
(AP photo/Mike Groll)