It was just last month that prisonpath.com discussed, in Inmates are Coming, that Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a plan to offer college programs at ten New York state prisons. Immediately, there was an outcry against this program. The program would have offered associate and bachelor degree education at 10 prisons, one in each region of the state. New York currently spends about $60,000 per year on each prisoner. Gov. Cuomo’s press release indicated it would cost approximately $5,000 per year to educate an inmate. Comments in newspapers and the internet ranged from ridicule to open hostility to providing education to inmates who qualify for this program. Opponents screamed that the program would pamper inmates.
Unfortunately, the opponents to this worthwhile program defeated the proposal. The majority of New York inmates (minorities) are from downstate while the majority of the prisons are located in upstate New York. For the most part, the upstate state prisons are located in largely Republican and majority white counties. The opposition to the inspired plan came from the Republican controlled state senate. The popular opposition focused on the idea of the unfairness of providing a free education to prison inmates.
This shortsighted view ignored simple facts. It cost the state of New York $60,000 a year to incarcerate an inmate. The proposed education plan would have cost $5,000 a year to educate an inmate.
Teresa Miller, a professor at the University of Buffalo, has studied New York prisons. The professor’s studies have shown the connection between education and lowering recidivism. Professor Miller has stated:
“When you consider that an inmate simply participating in a college program reduces his likelihood of re-offending after release by 46 percent, the impact of college coursework is impressive. When you consider that an inmate who earns a college degree in prison reduces his likelihood of re-offending from a national average of 60 percent to a mere 5.6 percent, the impact is astounding.”
Studies throughout the United States have shown that education for inmates increases successful re-entries and substantially lowers recidivism. Lower recidivism means a better society for all including the opponents to this worthwhile education plan for inmates.