Cuomo makes the conservative argument for college in prison

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Andrew Cuomo. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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ALBANY—Facing a group of mostly Republican critics, Governor Andrew Cuomo made an economic argument for allowing prison inmates to work toward college degrees. 

“If you were just doing this on the numbers, as a conservative … this is a great investment to save tax dollars,” Cuomo said, during an appearance at the Eastman Business Park in Rochester.

And then he stated those numbers: It costs around $60,000 a year to keep an inmate incarcerated, and roughly half of them end up back in prison, costing another $60,000 a year. Successful college-in-prison programs have reduced recidivism to four percent.

Still, the attackers have said it's a misalignment of priorities when the state is not offering similar assistance for non-criminals.

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Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the chamber's Corrections Committee, said those critics are “seriously misinformed.”

“The key to prison is to do everything we can while inmates are there to make sure they don't commit crimes when they go home,” he said. “You have somebody not allowed to leave a building—what do you do with them while they're there?”

“This is economic development money in the locations where the prisons are. … The people who are screaming about this — we're giving them jobs. Where do you think the prisons are?” O'Donnell continued. “They joke about Attica University. If Canisius College has to hire three new professors and three new secretaries, that's money going into that community.”