Cuomo Plan To Educate Inmates Runs Into Middle-Class Opposition


The U.S. formerly had a robust college education system for inmates. It was seen as a way to rehabilitate people behind bars by helping them go straight when they got out. Those taxpayer-funded college classes were defunded in the 1990s. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to bring them back, prompting a fierce new debate over higher education in prison, reports NPR. A reporter evoked the man who murdered John Lennon, asking Cuomo, “What do you say to a Yoko Ono if Mark David Chapman says, ‘I want a college education?’ “

Cuomo says helping inmates get a college education would cost about $5,000 a year per person — chump change, he argues, if it keeps that inmate from bouncing back into prison, which can cost up to $60,000 per year. Some members of the governor’s own Democratic Party hate this idea. State Assemblywoman Addie Russell, whose upstate district includes three state prisons, says taxpayers just won’t stand for inmates getting a free college education, while middle-class families struggle to pay for their kids’ tuition, housing and books. “That is the vast majority of feedback that I’m also getting from my constituents,” she says. “You know, ‘Where is the relief for the rest of the law-abiding population?’ “

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