Orleans joins other counties in opposing ‘college for criminals’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 March 2014 at 12:00 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature today joined a growing number of county governments around the state that are formally opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to expand college programs for inmates.

The governor said the programs will reduce recidivism rates and at $5,000 per inmate are far cheaper than $60,000 taxpayer burden to keep an inmate in prison each year.

The governor announced the plan to boost college programs for inmates last month. Local state legislators – Sen. George Maziarz and Assemblyman Steve Hawley – have denounced the idea. Congressman Chris Collins is pushing legislation that would prohibit the use of federal taxpayer dollars to provide a college education to convicted criminals.

The Orleans Legislature said any state dollars that go to college programs for inmates should instead go to school districts.

“The purpose of prison is to punish those who have engaged in behavior that is morally and legally wrong, dangerous, threatening, or severely antisocial, including murder, rape, theft and distribution of narcotics, among other serious crimes,” according to the resolution approved the County Legislature today.

The Erie County Legislature on Thursday also formally rejected the governor’s proposal. Several other county government bodies have gone on the record against the proposal, which Collins has lampooned as “college for criminals.”