A report calling for up to $10 million in funding for college programs in New York state prisons couldn’t come at a tougher time, given the historic budget deficit. But an advocacy group promoting more access to higher education for inmates believes the cost of doing nothing will be even higher in the long run, reports the Albany Times-Union. “All the evidence shows that college programs in prisons have important and lasting benefits,” said Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, which called for restoring state funding for in-prison college courses.
Gangi said college programs reduce recidivism rates, foster a more manageable prison environment and help ex-inmates improve their chances of finding a job and becoming productive, taxpaying citizens after they’re released from prison. Currently, 16 of the state’s 69 facilities holding 63,500 inmates offer a college program and nearly all, such as Cornell University and Bard College prison initiatives, are privately funded. Access to higher education was cut drastically in 1994, when President Bill Clinton signed a law that denied federal Pell grants to prisoners. The next year, Gov. George Pataki shut down access to the state’s TAP grants to prisoners. Since then, in-prison college programs have been limited. The advocates are seeking an initial investment of $5 million to $10 million to reinstate TAP grants.