Albany, NY - Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R,C,I - East Fishkill) today responded with a counter-proposal to yesterday's press conference advocating tuition assistance grants for inmates. Lalor is proposing that New York State cut per-prisoner spending by 10%, raise private, charitable funding for the program, and offer student loans to fill in any funding gaps, rather than hand out grants to the inmates. Lalor initially offered this plan in 2014 when Governor Cuomo briefly supported tuition assistance for inmates.
"We should work to cut recidivism rates and rehabilitate inmates, but we shouldn't ask taxpayers to pay more and more to do it," said Lalor. "New York spends $60,000 yearly per prisoner. That's the highest cost in the nation, $6,000 more than the next state on the list. Let's bring our spending down so New York is just spending the second most per prisoner in the country and then use the savings to cut recidivism. After we cut spending by 10%, we can raise further private funding for the program. Existing not-for-profits are providing education in prisons. New York should support those not-for-profits' efforts to raise private funds. Then the state can fill any funding gap by offering student loans to prisoners, not grants. Because they're not good credit risks, we'll garnish a percentage of their wages to pay taxpayers back. But this shouldn't be a handout. Taxpayers can't afford more handouts."
Lalor continued, "It's important that the state fill any funding gap with a loan, not a grant. It's not a handout, but a hand up. It teaches prisoners responsibility. It says they're not just entitled to this; they have to work for it. That will do more to cut recidivism than any handout."
"Governor Cuomo was roundly criticized when he proposed tuition assistance grants for prisoners in 2014," Lalor added. "New Yorkers were rightfully outraged that Cuomo was asking them to pay even more in taxes to give a free degree to prisoners. It's not that New Yorkers don't want to help rehabilitate prisoners; they are compassionate and want to help. But they don't support free college classes for prisoners when they're struggling to put their own kids through school. New Yorkers would support increased rehabilitation efforts through private funding and student loans, not handouts. If Albany wants to help rehabilitate inmates, that's the right way to go."