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February 19, 2014

Cuomo takes heat for inmate college plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to use public dollars to fund college educations for incarcerated felons has ignited strong opposition from the region’s elected officials serving in Albany.

“I think this is a slap in the face to our middle class people who are scrimping, saving and sacrificing in order to pay for the college educations of themselves and their children,” Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, told The Daily Star.

Cuomo contends that equipping inmates at 10 state prisons with college degree programs will reduce the likelihood that they will commit new crimes when they are released into society.

The proposal was not initially mentioned when he released his proposed state budget in January for the fiscal year beginning April 1. The governor announced his support for sending state funding to a new prison education program in remarks he made over the weekend to the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.

Among those distancing himself from the Democratic leader’s proposal Tuesday was a member of Cuomo’s own party, Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson.

“When we’re struggling to fund public schools, is this the time to give money to people who have committed crimes?” asked Magee, one of the most conservative members of the Assembly Democratic Caucus.

Magee’s 121st Assembly District represents most of Otsego County, all of Madison County and parts of Oneida County.

Cuomo, a first-term governor facing re-election this year, suggested that spending public dollars for inmate education could end up saving the state money. An estimated 40 percent of them will commit new crimes once they leave prison, he said.

“Someone who leaves prison with a college degree has a real shot at a second lease on life because their education gives them the opportunity to get a job and avoid falling back into a cycle of crime,” Cuomo said.

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