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Sad Week for Lower Recidivism

What is prison like

It was just last month that discussed, in Inmates are Coming, that Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a plan to offer college programs at ten New York state prisons. Immediately, there was an outcry against this program. The program would have offered associate and bachelor degree education at 10 prisons, one in each region of the state. New York currently spends about $60,000 per year on each prisoner. Gov. Cuomo’s press release indicated it would cost approximately $5,000 per year to educate an inmate. Comments in newspapers and the internet ranged from ridicule to open hostility to providing education to inmates who qualify for this program. Opponents screamed that the program would pamper inmates.

Unfortunately, the opponents to this worthwhile program defeated the proposal. The majority of New York inmates (minorities) are from downstate while the majority of the prisons are located in upstate New York. For the most part, the upstate state prisons are located in largely Republican and majority white counties. The opposition to the inspired plan came from the Republican controlled state senate. The popular opposition focused on the idea of the unfairness of providing a free education to prison inmates.

This shortsighted view ignored simple facts. It cost the state of New York $60,000 a year to incarcerate an inmate. The proposed education plan would have cost $5,000 a year to educate an inmate.

Teresa Miller, a professor at the University of Buffalo, has studied New York prisons. The professor’s studies have shown the connection between education and lowering recidivism. Professor Miller has stated:

“When you consider that an inmate simply participating in a college program reduces his likelihood of re-offending after release by 46 percent, the impact of college coursework is impressive.  When you consider that an inmate who earns a college degree in prison reduces his likelihood of re-offending from a national average of 60 percent to a mere 5.6 percent, the impact is astounding.”

Studies throughout the United States have shown that education for inmates increases successful re-entries and substantially lowers recidivism. Lower recidivism means a better society for all including the opponents to this worthwhile education plan for inmates.

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16 Responses to Sad Week for Lower Recidivism

  1. PrisonPath April 11, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

    It is difficult for the general public to accept the cost benefit of educating prisoners. Unless they have a family member or close friend in prison, its the “out of sight out of mind” thought process. I don’t think it has as much to do with whether you are republican or democrat but has to do with the cost. Is it fair for a prisoner to get a free education and others to not have the same access? I certainly understand the statistics but for many it is hard to stomach more costs related to prisons. We have worked out a partnership with the colleges so our teachers (paid by us) teach college classes to inmates at no tuition cost to corrections, the college or the inmates.
    By Betty

  2. Keith McCrea April 11, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    I had the unfortunate experience of having to do 3 prison bids before I received the “LIGHT BULB” moment. A college education behind the walls is essential in overcoming the everyday
    street violence/prison mentality encounters. It pays high dividends in growth & development.

  3. PrisonPath April 11, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    In the Tulsa Area we have partnered with Tulsa Community College and Turley Correctional Facility to start a certificate program within the facility that would give those who completed, a Business Computer User Certificate, which we, Tulsa Area Workforce Investment Board, dba Workforce Tulsa, are able to provide funding (as long as funds exist). We are also going into the Tulsa County Jail, David L. Moss, and doing FREE workshops: Resume Building, Interviewing Skills, Soft Skills, etc. I would contact your local workforce investment board to see if some of you cost could be covered under their funding.
    By Nicole

  4. PrisonPath April 11, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

    I had the unfortunate experience of having to do 3 prison bids before I received the “LIGHT BULB” moment. A college education behind the walls is essential in overcoming the everyday street violence/prison mentality encounters. It pays high dividends in growth & development.
    By Min. Keith

  5. PrisonPath April 11, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    Many of these prisoners who recidivate do so because they either do not have the skills to survive once released or no one wants to take a chance on someone who is newly released and not marketable. We should not look at this as prisoners receiving a free education because, really they have paid with their time and lives which they will never be able to get back. If these inmates are expected to learn a lesson, hence imprisonment, then we, as a society, can not set them up for failure once they are released. The fact that opposition is coming from Republicans, well I’m not surprised. But I do agree with Betty, Republican or Democratic the idea of giving inmates an education for $5k is a hard pill to swallow for anyone who is struggling with their own funds. But if you read the statistics these inmates have a great chance at not recidivating if they are equipped with an education to survive when they are released. I personally know someone who has paid his debt to society and has received a graduate degree while doing so and now he is doing wonderful. It WORKS!
    By Zoraida

  6. Kalyan c marella April 12, 2014 at 2:55 am #

    As a person working in prison I can say that every inmate needs education. In Andhra Pradesh, India we are providing free education and encouraging the inmates to get needful education and to get soft skills& vocational training in making steel furniture, in power looms etc., to get the knowledge to get the livelihood after they got released from prison.

  7. PrisonPath April 12, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    RAND corporation released statistics last year regarding educational programs (Including vocational courses such as C-Tech) impact on recidivism. It found that for every dollar invested in education programs, there was a 5 dollar reduction in incarceration costs.

    Society certainly can’t expect to place every felon in gainful employment post-release through these programs. It is imperative to understand that the cost to implement some of these programs to benefit hundreds of inmates is equal to the cost to incarcerate just one person for a year in most states.
    By Epaminondas

  8. Marj Oughton April 12, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    There are two pieces to the problem of getting public buy in. One is that many folks have kids in college who are accumulating college loan debt at a terrible rate. This prevents the graduates from starting their lives because they can’t get mortgages, have families, etc. because of this debt. Those folks would have difficulty with an inmate getting a free education when their kids are submerged in debt and can’t find a decent job when they graduate.

    The other problem is our national inability to decide whether we are trying to rehabilitate prisoners or just punish them. We know that punishing only makes things worse, but I don’t think the public sees that.

    • PrisonPath April 12, 2014 at 11:39 pm #

      Hi Marj,

      I understand your response. However, it is fact that education in prison reduces recidivism substantially. By reducing recidivism, we can take the $60,000 that it cost to incarcerate an inmate in New York and apply those funds to everyone who needs college aid.

  9. PrisonPath April 13, 2014 at 12:38 am #

    I feel that its education that provides the pathway to learn a skill to function outside once released from incarceration. I feel it is more money to have repeat offenders not having some type of skill instead of doing the samthing that lead them in prison. When I was working in corrections in the commonwealth as a correctional nurse the inmates that went to school were the first ones in the medication line and were very motivated to learn as I sadly hear that the education program was cut. I feel that the general public doesnt understand that this is very important. I feel that the public sees it as less money that they will receive in their income tax returns at the end of the year. Very sad situation. Nobody should be denied an education.
    By Bhrenda

  10. PrisonPath April 15, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    That is very true Melinda. I know substance abuse is a very big problem and yes substance abuse housing is definitely needed. But how about the inmates who truly wanting to further their education and have a trade to get back on the correct path. Yes I am a realist also. I just feel that nobody should be denied an education.
    By Bhrenda

  11. Linda April 18, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    Clearly the public needs to be educated. Economic issues aside, the public does not recognize that they are a major factor impacting on recidivism. With no skill sets (or even with them), no job, no place to live, unwelcome in our churches, often no family, etc., the ex-offenders go back to the only life they know. We desperately need initiatives such as Gov. Cuomo’s, but we also need Dr. Harold Trulear’s ‘Healing Communities’ program. I often worry deeply about those inmates we bring to Christ: What happens to their faith when they are rejected prospective employers, landlords, churches, and family? How to we prevent this?
    By Linda

  12. William April 18, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    Transition-to-outside preparation with group support inside, then half-way housing with spiritual, skills and work development, and then continuing accountability in groups is an outline of the Cephas program on the west end of state. It works very well, but it’s on a small scale. The “sleeping giant” to get NYS to see the fruits of a sensible build up the prisoner, with education, spiritual reconnection and mental health, that rests with the people in the pew. I love Kairos because it seeks just these very connections. God be praised, and may we lift up Christ abiding in his Spirit. wm+
    By William

  13. Willie April 18, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    I don’t understand the out cry for educating prisoners.
    By Willie

  14. Scarface April 22, 2014 at 2:12 am #

    There’s no room to build a prison in the city!! The prisons are built where land is available
    These are usually in rural areas and the majority if employees are white it’s demographics not race or done intentionally. As for educating inmates It’s really redundant they are felons and can’t use the degree 98% of the time.

  15. Kathy April 23, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    Formerly incarcerated in NY State I am very familiar with the educational offerings in the state. Fortunately, I already had a college degree so I did not participate in the program. I was friends with several of the women who participated in the Bard College program. Kudos to those women who participated at Taconic – they had no access to computers or internet research – all papers were hand written etc…despite these difficulties among others these woman were able to succeed and complete the courses. The Bard program not only offered support for those enrolled in the program while incarcerated but also upon their release from prison. It is truly sad that Gov. Cuomo had to bow to political pressure and will in fact not seek funding for the program – this is where private funding will have to come in.

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