NY approves $7 million to expand college offerings at prisons, including at Albion Correctional

Staff Reports Posted 10 August 2017 at 1:56 pm

New York is providing $7.3 million over the next five to fund educational programming and re-entry services at 17 New York State prisons over the next five years, including at Albion Correctional Facility, a medium-security women’s prison.

The College-in-Prison Reentry Program is being funded through the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative. It will create more than 2,500 seats for college-level education and training for incarcerated New Yorkers across the state. This program will significantly increase the likelihood of successful reentry into the community thereby reducing recidivism rates.

“Prison isn’t just about serving time for one’s crimes,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo. “It’s an opportunity to help those who have made mistakes rehabilitate and rebuild their lives. This program not only strengthens the futures of incarcerated individuals and their communities alike, but it will save taxpayer dollars in the long run.”

Last year, Cuomo unveiled this new college education program as part of a common sense criminal justice reform package through his Right Priorities Initiative. The new measure was launched through a partnership, as a way to utilize criminal asset forfeitures seized by the Manhattan DA’s Office to help fund a major expansion of higher education inside state prisons. Providing education in prisons is crucial in preparing that person for a successful reentry into the community, reduce the rate of recidivism, and improve public safety, Cuomo said.

A study conducted by The Rand Corporation in 2013 found that individuals who participate in prison education programs are 43 percent less likely to recidivate and return to prison, and 13 percent more likely to obtain employment after their release.

Currently, most college education programs at state prison facilities are privately funded. These classes carry long waitlists and standardization across programs is often lacking. These factors prevent many inmates from making significant progress toward the completion of a degree.

Just over 1,000 incarcerated individuals in New York State presently receive college-level instruction each year. The College-in-Prison Reentry Program will increase that number by 500-600 per year through a combination of CJII grant and matching funds. Participants will have the opportunity to receive college-level instruction and earn an Associate’s Degree, Bachelor’s Degree, or industry-recognized certificate. To qualify for the Program, incarcerated individuals must have no more than five years remaining on their prison sentence.

The colleges and universities being awarded grants to provide classes and re-entry services are:

• Bard College, at Taconic, Coxsackie, Eastern, Fishkill, Green Haven, and Woodbourne correctional facilities;

• Cornell University, at Cayuga, Auburn, Elmira, and Five Points correctional facilities;

• Medaille College, at Albion Correctional Facility;

• Mercy College, at Sing Sing Correctional Facility;

• Mohawk Valley Community College, SUNY, at Marcy correctional facility;

• New York University, at Wallkill correctional facility; and

• Jefferson Community College, SUNY, at Cape Vincent, Gouverneur, and Watertown correctional facilities.

The CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance, technical assistance provider to the Manhattan DA’s Office on all of CJII, will work with the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to oversee the program’s daily operations, working directly with the education providers.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, issued a statement today criticizing the initiative:

“Gov. Cuomo is proposing that New York state provide prisons $7 million so convicts can take college courses. I believe that there are more efficient ways to spend this amount of money. Our infrastructure throughout the state is in desperate need of attention along with many hardworking taxpayers who are struggling to provide college tuition for themselves and members of their family.

“Unfortunately, I feel that when the governor announces such misguided ideas and proposals that he is solely attempting to bring national media attention upon himself and to position himself for an upcoming presidential run. I call on the governor to relieve some of the burden that he placed on taxpayers to pay for his ‘free’ tuition plan and use this proposed $7 million for education at SUNY schools for law-abiding citizens.

“I can’t believe the governor puts the future of convicted felons ahead of the young men and women of our state who are working day in and day out to provide for their families and to become pillars of their communities. The people of New York state deserve better.”