Education of Prison Inmates Sparks Big Debate

One of the dearest wishes of most people in the world is to get a college education to better their life. For some, it is an unattainable dream due to poverty. Even in our country with financial assistance and grants to help the poor, most people struggle to afford college. Some people think that even prison inmates have a right to a college education.

One of these people is New York governor candidate Howie Hawkins, writes Kelley Fay. He is trying to pass a bill to give prison inmates a free college education. He suggests that it costs less to give them a college education than it does to keep incarcerating them.

The current New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, has started a plan to bring free education to 10 state prisons, but Mr. Hawkins does not think that goes far enough. He thinks that every single prisoner should be given the option to get a free college education. The idea behind the measure is to shrink New York’s 40% recidivism rate. Inmates that have a college degree are less likely to be reincarcerated because they are more easily able to find a secure job after prison with their degree, which saves tax payers money, says Governor Cuomo.

According to John Campbell’s article, opponents of the plan state that the governor still does not know where the money for this plan will come from, and that even if he found the funds, it could be better used towards lowering state college tuition or funding grants for law abiding citizens. Critics say that the governor is trying to give criminals a free education while law abiding citizens struggle to pay for college.

However, Governor Cuomo answers back to the critics, saying that while they are imprisoning criminals, they are not doing enough to rehabilitate them for a smoother transition back into society, writes Ry Rivard.

“‘We’re imprisoning. We’re isolating. But we’re not rehabilitating the way we should,’ Cuomo said this month when he announced the plan to a church gathering of the state’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. ‘We’re not correcting the way we should. We’re not improving the way we should.’”

According to Rivard, in the early 1990s prison education programs began to die when Texas State Senator Kelly Bailey Hutchinson pushed a bill making it impossible for prisoners to receive Pell grants from the federal government. Shortly afterward, the then New York governor, George Pataki, cut state help from prisoners wanting an education as well.

While studies do show that college education programs in prisons do help to lower reincarceration rates from 40% to 27%, many states are cutting the program anyway. Why? It is a simple answer: budget cuts, says David Nagel’s report. Since the recession, states have had to make tough descions about where in the state budget they are going to cut. Following the recession, states saw major cuts in their prison education systems. States with a large prison population were hit the hardest.