New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) wants to offer college degrees to inmates for free.
Cuomo says the program will save taxpayers money, assuming that education after incarceration will keep convicts from returning to prison.
The state says it costs $60,000 to incarcerate a prisoner, but only $5,000 to educate an inmate.
The governor’s office said in a release that "studies have shown that investing in college education for prisoners dramatically decreased recidivism rates while saving tax dollars on incarceration costs."
Cuomo said the plan is modeled on the Bard College initiative, where he said only four percent of 250 college grads in the prison system returned to incarnation after earning a degree.
“The proof is in the pudding. Of those people who went through The Bard College program the recidivism rate has only been four percent compared to close to 50 percent,” Cuomo said.
The announcement angered WIVB viewers who took to Facebook to announce their own college debt and the unemployment rate.
“They should have student debt like every other person who attends college,” wrote Faith Bunnell-Coppola.
“My Nephew wants to go to College! He can't afford it! Should I advise him to become a criminal to get a degree!” wrote Holly Santiago.
“Oh wonderful! I'll just continue paying back my $50,000 student loan that I can't really afford to pay back because I can't find a job in my field. Me, as a law abiding citizen with a clean record and not an inmate. I really think this is a horrible and unjust plan to be pushing for,” wrote Jennifer Page.
Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, released a statement Monday opposing Cuomo’s plan.
“I support rehabilitation and reduced recidivism, but not on the taxpayer’s dime when so many individuals and families in New York are struggling to meet the ever-rising costs of higher education,” Grisanti said. “I am fighting to restore the availability of graduate-level Tuition Assistance Program funds for middle class taxpayers that was previously eliminated, and I will continue to fight for its reinstatement before I even begin to entertain the idea of supporting this program.”
There are currently 54,200 prisoners in the state, the lowest number in more than two decades.