New York inmates will soon be getting a free education thanks to a new program announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo. 17 prisons across New York State will benefit from the $7.3 million program, but it’s not being for by taxpayer dollars though. All of the money comes from the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
"This is not taxpayer dollars. That's the most important thing to remember. This is money that comes from the Manhattan District Attorney's office and it comes out of a pool of fines.” Bruce Levitt, Faculty Director of the Cornell Prison Education program told WSTM news.
98 percent of prisoners currently in jail will one day be released. Studies have shown that access to education helps ensure inmates live a better life once they leave prison. Experts argue that it’s in the best interest of the general public that prisons focus on rehabilitation instead of retribution.
However, some lawmakers like Senator Patty Ritchie, do not agree with the program. She argues that it’s unfair to give people in prison access to a free college education when those outside of prison don’t have the same options.
"This is for people who have stopped me at the gas station or in the grocery store and said, 'I don't understand it. Why would we allow inmates who've done something wrong to get a free education when I can’t afford to pay my child's student loans, who's graduated.”
Levitt says education in prison is extremely important for inmates because there's a greater chance at succeeding in life once they get back out into society.
But, the question still remains, is prison about retribution or is it about rehabilitation and redemption?
WSTM contributed to this report.
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