New York State’s maximum-security Eastern New York Correctional Facility in Napanoch, also known as Happy Nap, is one of only three maximum-security prisons in the state where inmates can get an education — not just in manual skills, but a proper college education with a degree at the end, thanks to privately financed initiatives, the New York Times Magazine says. Education programs once were widely available in U.S. prisons. Then, in 1994, Congress virtually abolished federally financed college education for inmates when it eliminated Pell Grants for federal and state prisons, despite strong resistance from the Department of Education. Critics pointed out that education greatly reduces recidivism; only one-tenth of 1 percent of the Pell Grant budget went to the education of prisoners anyway. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tx.), argued that it was unfair for felons to benefit from Pell Grants when as many as 100,000 low-income students were denied them each year.
Before 1995 there were some 350 college-degree programs for prisoners. Today there are about a dozen, four of them in New York State. The Times describes the Bard Prison Initiative, which educates New York inmates It costs the state about $32,000 a year to keep a person in jail. It costs the initiative only $2,000 to provide a student with a year of college education.