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Medaille going to prison to offer college courses

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New York State is planning to expand opportunities for college courses in some state prisons. However, one Republican Assemblymember is blasting the "handout to cons" as a publicity-grabber for the Governor.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced $7.3 million will provide college-level education and training for  more than 2,500 prisoners across the state. The money comes from large bank settlements secured by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. 

Among the programs in this region will be classes at the Albion Correctional facility, provided by Medaille College and Five Points Correctional Facility, with services provided by Cornell University.

The program is being overseen by SUNY, CUNY and the City University of New York. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the CUNY Institute for state and local governance, said these additional college courses are a good investment in society overall.

“The research is in on this, so the more education people leave with, the lower recidivism rates they have," Jacobson said. "The lower recidivism rates, people in communities all over are just safer, you’ll pay less tax dollars to corrections."

Cuomo said most college education programs at state prison facilities are currently privately funded, plus those classes carry long wait times and there are often problems standardizing the classes. It is hoped the new program will improve the operation of these programs.

However, Batavia Assemblymember Steve Hawley is calling the program a "taxpayer-funded handout to cons." The Republican issued a statement, saying "there are more efficient ways to spend this amount of money," especially as "many hardworking taxpayers [are] struggling to provide college tuition for themselves and members of their family."

Hawley said the governor's "misguided ideas and proposals" are an attempt "to bring national media attention upon himself and to position himself for an upcoming presidential run....I can’t believe the governor puts the future of convicted felons ahead of the young men and women of our state who are working day in and day out to provide for their families and to become pillars of their communities."

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's Director of News and Public Affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
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