Mary Katzenstein, an expert on prisons and recidivism, Milman Professor of American Studies at Cornell University and former director of the Cornell Prison Education Program, hails New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s initiative to fund college education for prisoners.
“Governor Cuomo’s recently announced proposal to fund college classes in New York State prisons is one of a host of groundbreaking bipartisan measures now rolling off the desks of legislators this past year. In a year when Grover Norquist, Newt Gingrich, Ed Meese and others are championing the downsizing of mass incarceration, and on the heels of former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik excoriating the failures of a prison system that simply warehouses, Governor Cuomo’s announcement is part of a broad rethinking about how to make ‘corrections’ correctional.
“Cornell University has been teaching college classes in Upstate New York prisons for well over a decade. In collaboration with Cayuga Community College, prison students have the opportunity to earn an associates degree.
“The stakes are high: Close to 700,000 men and women are released from state and federal prison every year. As Cornell knows well, along with Bard College, Hudson Link and our sister institutions that offer college degree programs in New York state prisons, Cornell college courses lead to very different outcomes for men and women returning home from prison. Recidivism drops dramatically.
“Far better for all of us that people return from prison with a sense of purpose and with the capacity to make their way in life. And for the money saved by reducing our prison population, this is simply good dollars and sense.”