Two years ago, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to provide $1 million for publicly-funded college programs in 10 state prisons flopped badly after Republican lawmakers objected on principle: Why should prisoners get a free education when many law-abiding families struggle to pay to send members to college? The Christian Science Monitor says an increasing body of research shows educating prisoners leads to long-term savings for the taxpayer, bolstering a growing movement reassessing the social benefits of prison college programs. With a half million prisoners released each year, lawmakers have had rehabilitation back on their radar.
Offering college courses, like the one Cuomo is trying to reboot in New York this week, are a prime example. He said that the new effort would be funded by $7.5 million in criminal forfeiture funds from the Manhattan district attorney, who has amassed hundreds of millions of dollars from Wall Street fines and civil cases. Private foundations will provide $7.5 million more. “Prisons were not supposed to be a warehouse,” says Cuomo. “It was supposed to be about rehabilitation. It was supposed to be an opportunity to help people. We lost that somewhere along the way.” “Definitely I think there is a movement to reconsider what is being done within correctional facilities and to expand the opportunity for rehabilitation through college-level education,” says John Dowdell of The Journal of Correctional Education and director of the Gill Center for Business and Economic Education at Ashland University in Ohio.