NY to spend $7.3M on college-in-prison program
by: Jon Campbell
ALBANY – New York will spend $7.3 million from bank settlements to expand college education programs in prisons, including the Albion Correctional Facility in Orleans County.
Seven colleges will begin, continue or expand offerings for prisoners at 17 correctional facilities across New York over the next five years as part of the College-in-Prison Re-Entry Program, a joint program between Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
Cuomo and Vance unveiled the colleges and prisons plan Monday.
Among them are Medaille College, based in Buffalo, which will continue its program at Albion, which launched in 2008. Cornell University, meanwhile, will be active in four correctional facilities, including Five Points in Seneca County.
In all, there will 400 to 500 new seats each year for college-education programs in state prisons, according to Cuomo’s office.
“It has never been more evident that a college education is an important stepping stone to success and by partnering with District Attorney Vance, that success will reach those who never thought they could achieve it,” Cuomo said in a statement.
He was immediately met with a wave of backlash from conservatives and college students, who questioned the state covering costs for inmates at a time when expenses were rising for non-inmate students.
Last year, Cuomo and Vance came up with a compromise: Vance’s office provided more than $7 million recovered from settlements with large banks to fund a scaled-back program.
Some colleges — including Cornell and Medaille — already offered college courses to prisoners, though those initiatives were funded by foundations and other private donors. Statewide, about 1,000 prisoners currently take college-level courses, according to the state.
The state’s program will only be open to prisoners with less than five years left on their sentence.
“We’ll hopefully equip them with very important skills that will enrich their lives once they’re on the outside and create a tool that will help them avoid returning to prison,” said Robert Eap, academic director of Cornell’s prison program.
Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor, R-Fishkill, Dutchess County, said he’s supportive of offering higher-education courses to prisoners.