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Cuomo suggests college classes for prisoners

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ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing to fund college classes in state prisons, saying a college degree will reduce the likelihood an inmate will return to crime when released.

“Giving men and women in prison the opportunity to earn a college degree costs our state less and benefits our society more,” Cuomo said. “New York State currently spends $60,000 per year on every prisoner in our system, and those who leave have a 40 percent chance of ending up back behind bars. Existing programs show that providing a college education in our prisons is much cheaper for the state and delivers far better results. Someone who leaves prison with a college degree has a real shot at a second lease on life because their education gives them the opportunity to get a job and avoid falling back into a cycle of crime.”

The program will offer associate and bachelor degree education at 10 prisons, one in each region of the state.

The state will be issuing a Request for Proposal starting March 3, that will solicit responses from educational associations that provide college professors and classes in an accredited program in order for inmates to earn their degrees.

According to Cuomo’s office, New York currently spends approximately $3.6 billion in total costs for prisons. The program will add approximately $5,000 per year per inmate that enrolls. Cuomo didn’t specify the cost of the overall program.

Recent studies have shown that by earning college degrees, inmates are far less likely to return to prison. New York’s current recidivism rate is 40 percent.

Since 2007, the state Department of Corrections has partnered with colleges including Cornell University and Bard to offer privately funded degree programs at 22 prisons.

The new program will expand on that.

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