Many Problems With Cuomo’s Jail Degree Program

The are numerous problems with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to offer associate and bachelor degree programs at 10 state prisons.

Proponents point to the state’s recidivism rate of 40 percent and say more education will help keep those released from prison from reoffending because they will be qualified for good jobs. They say having an education is the best way for former prisoners to avoid turning to crime a second time.

It would seem Cuomo’s idea is sound until one thinks about it for a second. Here are a few arguments against Cuomo’s plan.

How many times have we heard local governments and school districts scream for their fair share from the state only to be told there is no money for them? Now, a surplus arises and Cuomo is ready to spend that money like a 6-year-old in a candy store. Add to that the fact Cuomo hasn’t given a firm number what he expects to spend on this program and you have strike one.

Strike two is courtesy of parents struggling to find money to send their children to college, students who financed their own education and are struggling to pay back their student loans and those who went to college only to struggle to find work in their chosen field because there are either no such jobs or not enough such jobs. Each and every one of those types of person are represented in Chautauqua County.

The third strike is that the simple act of educating people while they are in prison isn’t the only action that needs to be taken. Many employers don’t like to hire those who have served time in prison, and chances are holding a college degree won’t change that mindset in a state like New York where the economy isn’t good for those who haven’t served time in prison. We also ask what happens to inmates who don’t take advantage of the program? People who have been convicted of felonies are barred from most types of federal assistance – such as housing or food stamps – which means this program doesn’t impact the recividism problem for those who don’t take advantage of the free college courses.

Cuomo needs to go back to the drawing board on this issue. Rehabilitation programs in prison should absolutely include programs to make sure inmates have a high school degree or GED. Job skills training is a must. Cuomo should also keep in mind the $60,000 spent on each inmate each year should encompass this type of work.

Recividism is a serious problem that affects communities throughout the state, and conservatives should not disregard the problem as easily as they can Cuomo’s half-baked plan.