College for Criminals

What Gov. Cuomo’s botched prison education effort says about our society.

Comments: 197

  1. Thank you. It is utterly appalling to see politicians gin up rage and resentment on a paltry effort like this. An ex-con will always be an ex-con, always less desirable as an employee. But to deny a prisoner even the possibility of rehabilitation -- it takes a special sort of pandering, and no conscience, to act like this. When did my country become so hateful?

  2. We have seen many examples of ex cons going on to become useful citizens. Some like Merle Haggard have become famous.

    From my point of view, it is the white collar ones that at hardest to rehabilitate. The do not think they did anything wrong, so what if some investor lost all his or her savings, it was their own fault, or that Ken Lay and Jeffery Skilling did a little creative book keeping, it was all in the investors interest, so they said.

    Insider trading, oh we added value, and so on.

  3. T one time California had a progressive warden at San Quentin, Clinton T. Duffy:

    He was instrumental in reducing recidivism by seeing to it that inmates got education and could get jobs when released. He was the most admired warden in the US in his time.

    Some years ago, I know a counselor at Chino State Prison. She told me that almost 80% of the inmates she counseled were illiterate. They could not get jobs, and when they got out, they went back to making a living the way they always had, dealing, stealing, reconnecting with their old gang.

    The politicians in California have been hostage to the guards union. While giving them constant increases in wages, they have cut out programs that did get jobs for parolees. The cabinet shop at Susanville, the underwater construction training program at Chino, all to please the conservative voters. As the article points out, people believe the cons made their choice, so they do not want to give them and education they rejected previously. That of course ignores the fact that without any education, they will go right back in, which is a boon to the guards, and communities that get prisons built, but it is a lousy deal for the taxpayers.

    Lock them up, and keep them there, cost more than an education at a private university. On top of that, the parole system is Kafkaesque, its rules make getting employed an exercise in futility.

  4. "The politicians in California have been hostage to the guards union. "

    That includes current governor Jerry Brown after the Supreme Court's decision on overcrowding.

    For as long as there are no jobs for those who have never been incarcerated, employing former convicts, no matter how educated they are, is going to be a tall order. Without the proper supports, including food stamps, MediCal and cash assistance when they get out of jail, education won't matter much. If they can't subsist until they can turn a new leaf, you're right, they'll go back to what they know. Without the cessation of incarceration for certain things, we will have huge and costly prison populations.

    The system is rigged in favor of recidivism and the continued success of the prison-industrial system. Nothing will change until we break that cycle.

  5. David,

    It would seem that California High School students should have their "shop" classes restored before the prison inmates, if for no other reason than they are the next generation of potential prison inmates. Helping to prevent crime is better than trying to rehabilitate criminals.

  6. @Richard
    I can not argue that we do not need to restore shop classes, but that begs the question.

    These people are in jail now, and if we do not do something to keep them from going back in after they get out, there will be no money for shop classes, or anything more.

    We still have to rehabilitate those that we can. The cost of keeping people in prison is enormous. AS I said, CDCR is 8% of the state budget now, and will increase if we do not fix it.

    On top of that as has been pointed out, if they can not find jobs, the commit more crime, which is also costly.

  7. If college were more affordable for everyone, would we see greater acceptance of the idea of providing such educational opportunity to inmates?

    Another piece of the reluctance to support rehabilitation and education for inmates I think is an unwillingness to let go -- to let go of a past event, even when it's in the distant past. People are more than just a snapshot taken at one or a few moments in their lives.

  8. Yes. We should provide the benefit for all, so people wouldn't complain if prisoners get it. Perhaps the cost of college could be reduced for everyone, or for those who can't afford the current cost. Would the effect on prisoners still be positive if they got out of prison with a college degree and a manageable education loan to pay off? It seems to me that the complaint that prisoners are getting health care or education that is not available to the general population is reasonable, but the response should be that everyone should have access to what the prisoners are being offered, not that the prisoners should lose the benefit.

  9. I think the answer to your opening question is definitely "yes". Let's first ensure that the kids who struggle to stay honest get a shot at higher education, because far too many of them are left in the cold.

  10. Thank you Mr. Keller for this insightful oped. Our justice system's primary focus on punishment has also caused us to miss opportunities for people who have committed crimes to be accountable. Restorative justice programs, where a person who's harmed another addresses what they might do to repair the harm, should be provided in prisons. We have been providing them for about 10 years in Hawai'i, and know that many incarcerated people would like to repair the harm they have caused. Yet in our state, besides our restorative programs mainly, there is no process for imprisoned people to take responsibility (court ordered restitution is insufficient). Sadly, only a small fraction of the imprisoned people who want a restorative intervention receive one. Our state government is moving to build new prison beds, but does not fund restorative justice prison programs that are usually healing for crime victims and rehabilitative for imprisoned people. You're right, our prison policy makers are indeed in need of corrections. Thanks again for you good work.

  11. Legalize marijuana not illegals. People should be in jail for invading our country, forging working documents, lowering wages and colluding with employers to push the cost of their labor onto law abiding Americans. They should not be jail for smoking a marijuana cigarette or growing the stuff. That should be the real priority of our elected officials.

  12. I agree as to legalizing marijuana. Anyone who does not understand what marijuana prohibition, like alcohol probation, does to create organized crime needs to watch Ken Burns' acclaimed documentary film "Prohibition!"

    As to undocumented workers, most come here in search of work, doing jobs that other Americans reject. They bring with themselves a "work ethic" that too many Americans, including those in prison for crimes against persons and property, lack. They need economic opportunity as much as the long term unemployed.

  13. For decades politicians have utilized crime and inmates to further their political fortunes. (The media have been cooperative in this arrangement as well). It is not surprising that the public has a distorted and inaccurate view of prison life, the nature of most inmates and their general lack of education. Having worked in a maximum security prison that had college classes: 1. only motivated inmates with good records were chosen. 2. Those chosen were hungry to learn, especially in the areas of liberal arts. 3. Inmates chosen were motivated to use education to succeed once they returned to the community 4. Many men who end up in prison were physically, emotionally and behaviorally abused in their youth. Withholding educational opportunities from inmates has no logical basis.

  14. True. A college education should be available for everyone.

  15. It may be more palatable to offer associate degrees and trade programs. I can't imagine there would be much of an outcry if convicts were trained in welding, plumbing, electrical work, etc. The jobs they could get upon release with these skills probably pay better than a lot of the jobs you can get with a bachelors degree anyway.

  16. No probably about it. And in those jobs nobody really cares if you did some time.

  17. The College for Criminals is Harvard.

  18. What nonsense.

    Not everyone at Harvard is an angel, but a lot of good people go to Harvard and all the other fine colleges in this country.

    ****Michael W. Richter, MD, Class of 1959

  19. In the 70's Orygun had a program for first time offenders which paid for two years at a community college after their release.
    Several I met who had gone on to the University of Orygun were hustlers, but were hustling at getting an education.
    The brightest guy went on to a job on Capitol Hill,
    working with a better paid, more respectable, genteel class of hustlers.

  20. First hand experience in seeing what happens when inmates are taught to be street-smarter in prison because of preconceived notions of their life AFTER on the outside. What this funding does is give the next time they get arrested - more reason for them to be in there. Prison education is a medium towards filtering between the misguided and the cynical. That is what prison is for.

  21. But why all the emphasis on college? Why not apprenticeships in skilled or semi skilled occupational trades or many other jobs that don’t require college?

    A Times article said the number of apprenticeships in the US generally have decreased by 40 percent since 2008. That is a cause of decreased living standards and security. It’s understandable that jobless and underemployed, underpaid people should feel resentment at prison training, that politicians the exploit.

    How does that compare with countries where govt and corporations join to offer job training during high school? They create more skilled youth, who get OJT while still in school. The ultimate result is less prisoners, less prisons, less jobless. Their youth don’t have to flounder in insecurity, but have the stability and confidence that a decent job gives them right out of high school. Less social pathology results. And less pitting of various groups against each other.

    We seem to find ways to create more financially insecure populations, with lowered living standards, and also more prisons, more incarcerated, more hostility and resentment.

  22. When did my country become so hateful?

    I believe it started with the "war on drugs", which is a war on people. It is the same forces of reactionary people and institutions, such as cops, prosecutors, jailers, etc that stand in the way of practical and humane solutions.

  23. Truer than true. The US has the highest proportion of incarcerated citizens of any 'first world nations' and the major are incarcerated on relatively trivial drug charges. I'm no fan of illegal drug use, but really now ...

  24. I have always been a strong supporter of inmate education. When frustrated acquaintances ask me sarcastically, "Why can't my kid get a free education?", I answer sincerely, "Because you keep voting for Republicans."

  25. Good one.

  26. It is policies put in place and maintained by Democrats that make college so unaffordable in the first place. It is the Republicans who want to reduce the cost and not by lowering an interest rate but by making college affordable so the interest rate doesn't matter much at all.

  27. I welcome Mr. Keller’s continued articles on the US incarceration problem.

    Of course people say why should their taxes pay for crooks to get education, when college is out of reach for so many, or leads to life time debt. Same as the reaction to high wages/pensions for govt workers and teachers paid for by their taxes. It’s easy to stoke resentment after private sector employees have seen decades of lost pensions, lowering of wages and benefits, jobs sent out of the country.

    In the past most New Yorkers and people nation wide had access to free or low cost state colleges. And private sector workers saw periodic raises and guaranteed pensions. But opportunity has narrowed so sharply for the average citizen, that populations have to fight over the smaller pie.

    People fears of job competition causes more resentment if they they see the rivals for jobs as 'undeserving', like ex inmates. The narrowing of resources sets various groups and classifications against each other. The 1 percent engineered this narrowing of resources, enabled by lawmaker support.

    This is the issue that must be related to this topic of inmate education.

  28. Would taxpayers prefer that the state spend $60,000 per year for each incarcerated person, or $5,000 to break the cycle of recividism. It is a demonstrated fact that those able to improve their educational or vocational skills while incarcerated are less likely to re-offend in the future. It's an argument that thoughtful taxpayers should endorse.

    Senator Maziarz (my senator) claims that the Governor's proposal is unfair to families who are struggling to pay college tuition, and that the money should go to them instead. Well, there are lots of things that are unfair to taxpayers. Why should I have to pay school taxes when I have no children in school? Why should I have to pay taxes for the local fire department when I've purchased my own fire extinguishers and don't smoke? Why should my taxes pay for libraries? I buy my own books - why pay for other people to read for free? Why should I pay taxes for police if I've acquired my own arsenal of guns? These are, of course, absurd arguments because quality of life is not based on selfishness, but on care and encouragement for one another through agencies of government.

    Senator Maziarz sets this up as an either/or debate. Why not both/and? His party typically accuses the Governor of spending too much, but in this case the Governor seems to have heard the Republican message and is trying to reduce the costs of criminal justice. This is a proposal that should have come from the Republicans in the first place.

  29. After reading Charles Blow's column, I must add this:
    "According to The New York Times’ Economix blog, college costs have risen over 500 percent since 1985..." !!

    That huge increase, that has put college debt higher than credit card debt, say reports, is the underlying issue politicians are using to stoke resentment against taxes for inmate education. So trying to appeal to statistics on education reducing crime after release is not the most practical idea to get support. Politicians do want to be reelected, you know.

    Our lawmakers should work to make college low cost or free, as it once was in our lifetimes, and still is in many other democracies. Some publicity on how they do this with rational tax rates might be eye opening. But of course that's all connected to big money in politics and profit making higher education--a complicated topic.

    The proponents of prison education should publicize some actual success story examples, using real individuals with names and pictures. Show how education has helped ex cons find self sustaining jobs and personal stability. Don’t let the ‘kids befor cons’ photos take over the issue.

  30. "Our lawmakers should work to make college low cost or free, as it once was in our lifetimes, and still is in many other democracies."

    If a college education were affordable for all, this discussion regarding prisons would no longer be necessary.

  31. No Assemblyman Tedisco, Wall Street has highly educated criminals who never have seen or will see a day in prison.

  32. As the kid say "lets get real". A majority of African America inmates basically direct their crimes at the African American community, where most white liberals don't live. And having these inmates in prison may benefit the African American community, in terms of safety. By all means, give some tax money for inmate college. But how about more money for the 50,000 children in NYC trying to get in charter schools? Or have much more financial aid to non inmates going to college.White liberals like Bill Keller always seem more willing to focus on the weakest elements of the Black community, as evidence of their social idealism. This is often soft core bigotry. The New York Times is basically a white liberal institution, which doesn't often highlight the achievements of African Americans in business , education or science. Black American may be under represented in those areas, but there are success stories. Malcolm X once said that you can tell if a white person respects your intelligence, if he or she ask your opinions on subjects which have nothing to do with race. In America, the South starts at the Canadian border, when it comes to race.

  33. Well put, Thelonious, and an insightful quote from Malcolm X, but I'd like to add that in Europe you find that a college education is essentially underwritten by the government no matter which side of the bars you're on. In America we're discussing whether inmates should have an education when, in reality, the discussion should be about how to ensure that EVERYBODY gets a good education at a reasonable cost.

  34. So, it is better to not help inmates go to college in order to not appear racist?

  35. I admit, my first thought was, Here I can't afford the education I need, and a convict gets it? But almost immediately the correct response to that argument fired back, Better some get the education they need than fewer, or none. And who better than the people who will see the most dramatic change as a result, and whose education will better all of society: better our hope for second chances, better our safety, better our national conscience? I will be happy if some part of my taxes helps someone's chances to turn her life around and contribute.

  36. Compassion is a good thing.

  37. If educating inmates saves money by allowing them to find a job upon release, so be it; it makes sense to me. Although there are some hard-core criminals that may not 'deserve' re-educating, especially if they are to remain incarcerated 'for ever', that is not the case for the vast majority. They'll need a job so they can, belatedly, contribute to society. Lest we forget, some of the inmates are mentally ill, others have had a miserable upbringing in our less-that-perfect system, many are in for minor infractions and drug-related. Once they've served their sentence, lets give them a chance. If in their shoes, wouldn't we want redemption?

  38. I can see where this college for convicts program is distasteful to a lot of people. Prison is about punishment. It is not supposed to reward crimes against the state with the scarce resource of education.

    But this program is a near analogous to former Presidents Ford and Carter's attempts to restore the right to vote to convicts. They argued that taking away the right to vote as a punitive measure was counterproductive, further alienating a criminal away from society, and thus raising the possibility of recidivism. When a person feels that he is part of a society and has a stake, he is less inclined to a criminal, pernicious act against fellow citizens.

    For the majority who are not abject sociopaths, getting an education would give them more of a stake, and make them feel more of a part of society. In addition, it would gear their minds into a more rational, thinking mode rather than living a life of physical aggression, violence, and fear with no reflection on their actions.

    The point of prison is to reduce crime, not encourage it. That's why this idea of Gov. Cuomo has merit.

  39. I disagree with your statement that prison is about punishment, it should not be. Prisons if they must exist, must be about rehabilitating people rather than coddling peoples abstract notions of good guys and bad guys. A deeper look into how much money is spent on building more prisons instead of adding more classrooms with well paid, qualified teachers in a state like Pennsylvania for example is a pretty sharp example of how far off our priorities are as a nation for nurturing and caring for the human potential in everyone.

  40. Wordsworth from Wadsworth,

    "Prison is about punishment."

    You are only half right. Prison is about both punishment and redemption. I had a friend who volunteered to go to prison every week and read to those inside. He is dead now. The prisoners didn't kill him. They gave him an outlet for his compassion.

    Most human lives can be reclaimed. You don't know what circumstances led to conviction.

    It is the old adage about the carrot and the stick. Punishment is about the stick. Redemption is about the carrot.

    Ultimately, if we can get ex-convicts to become productive members of society, then everyone has won.

  41. As student loan burdens become increasingly intolerable out in the mere prison of our souls, I can see a demand building among our young for berths within prisons of a more bring-n-mortar cast. Gas station and 7-Eleven hold-ups (no violence, please) in the Finger Lakes might become the new eventual entrée to an upper-middle-class life.

    Can you see it?

    $1 million in NYS's prison budget would just about cover lunches for the wardens, so it's not something that a lot of folks will notice -- except those who understand that once you allow a tax or a budget item, it ALWAYS goes north with time, not south. And this is counter-intuitive to most Americans.

    We incarcerate too many and for the wrong things, but once there, it's been a looong time since America bought the idea of prison as means of rehabilitation: its image is as tank housing social piranhas so that society generally doesn't need to pack heat everywhere for mere protection (just in Florida and Wyoming). And I'd reverse the priority of your first and second "purposes". "Punishment" is second, while "Public Safety" is first: people want predators out of their neighborhoods, at any cost (but keep it as cheap as tolerable).

    Don't be surprised if this dies a quiet death. Andrew Cuomo eventually wants to run for president, and could be the 2016 Democratic contender. Pushing too hard for something that would have him pilloried from Seattle to Miami is no way to get there, and actually is reminiscent of Dukakis.

  42. The real problem is that current policies prevent convicted offenders from ever fully re-entering society due to the permanent existence of a criminal record. I always thought that there should be some point in time, e.g. five to ten years with no further legal problems, that the slate was wiped clean as to any public records, including even arrest records.

    This would create an incentive to not commit criminal acts and also offer a path to full equality with other citizens. I would omit certain crimes such as sex offenses, treason, and mayhem, but allow the majority of past offenders to have a path to true and full re-integration into society.

  43. I don't think that the US has the equivalent of the UK's "Open University", a model which has been adopted in many countries.
    This model facilitates college study most anywhere, at least in topics related to Humanities and a good deal of Social Sciences.
    Numerous countries allow prison inmates, not in all cases however, to pursue degrees at "Open Universities" and if education prevents "return visits", this is probably cheaper then paying for those return visits and a good.
    And in an ideal world every inmate would be released with at least a high school diploma, assuming that the inmate is willing also to make the effort.

  44. I saw someone who had just got out of prison once. He said that he had no money and needed some. I was scared and drove away.

    The fact is that these people just came off a tough ride. Many will try not to get into jail again. They simply don't know how to do that, and have no help to get there.

    Your numbers are compelling:

    "He noted that the cost — $5,000 per inmate per year — would be a bargain compared with the $60,000 it costs to incarcerate a prisoner for a year."

    The steps detailed in this article make sense, financially and socially. Why not? They have paid their debt to society.

    I'd rather they became productive members of society than a raging bull with a gun.

  45. Rightly or wrongly, retribution has been part of every society's punishment of transgressors. It's naive, historically incorrect, and dishonest to claim otherwise.

    Revenge burns eternal in the human breast. Some may talk of forgiveness, but more often Americans prefer to believe in eternal punishment in the hell-fire. The USA is a nation of self-professed Christians; very few of whom, of course, actually practise the teachings of the Galilean. Talking the talk is much easier than walking the walk.

    The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon our children and upon our children's children. The Land of the Free owes its prosperity primarily to its historical dispossession of the country's First Peoples, and next to the importation of a large slave labour force from Eastern Africa. Present day middle class white Americans must now pay for the sins of their forefathers. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth - no more, no less. The history of the human race is largely about revenge. It's what makes us what we are.

  46. Tsk. Western Africa not Eastern Africa.

  47. Spineless Cuomo. I am constantly disappointed by his lack of strength to do the right thing by any group of peoples. I plan to send him my check for helping out those most unfortunate as a glimmer of hope. Sienna College Rocks!

  48. Is it a "bleat" if I complain that my kid is saddled with $60,000 in college loan debt, while criminals get an education at taxpayer expense?

    Let's presume for a moment that the dogma that educating criminals reduces recidivism is correct. Then let the costs of their education be in the form of a loan that they must repay after release. A free ride for criminals will never achieve public acceptance in the face of the massive cost of a college education that the law-abiding must bear. It's like something out of Kafka to assert that the road to a free degree and a better future can be taken by committing a crime. Yet this is what the author is in effect saying.

    I also object to the characterization that such a view has "Willie Hortenish" overtones. What the Republican staffers apparently did is wrong, but don't paint everyone who opposes free college for criminals with that broad brush. I don't care what color the criminal is; I simply don't want to pay for his or her education in addition to that of my own kids. It would be nice if everyone could have a free lunch, but life doesn't work that way. By all means, let's educate the incarcerated. But let them pay for that education over time after they have been released from prison.

  49. It seems to me that if the costs of incarceration are approximately $60K/year, a better solution might be to offer a parole from prison, with a $40K/year stipend to go to school, learn a trade, and be able to afford to live modestly in the meantime, a saving of $20K per inmate vs. incarceration costs. But there also has to be a "stick" as well as a "carrot" The stipulation in this agreement between the state and the inmate, would be that upon a commission of a felony, immediate execution. This might be just enough of an incentive to become a productive member of society. This, of course, if I were King of the Realm.

  50. Education is not just about jobs. Education leads to more insight about ourselves and the world. We all benefit from better thinking skills and decision making and a greater knowledge base. The dirty secret is some ex-cons are supporting themselves with federal student financial aid money after release anyway, some with poor academic results or just plain not returning to campus after the FA check is gone. Better to reach offenders in prison when there are fewer distractions and start the learning there and hope it flourishes.

  51. I spent 6 years in the US Federal prison system & went on to obtain a BA, an MSc, & start a PhD (after release) so perhaps have a clearer insight into this issue than most?
    When I was incarcerated in 1994 eligibility for the Pell Grant (to assist inmate higher education) was abolished, a move indicating the new reality of 'warehousing' rather than rehabilitating inmates.
    To those who fret over 'rewarding' inmates, let's not be coy...
    The inmates who would be academically eligible for college classes would be a small minority but a minority with the best chance of avoiding recidivism with a little help from a program such as this.
    To those who clamour for a punishment only model of incarceration...
    Be aware that in removing opportunity & hope a man is made not only unmanageable (to which any prison official will attest) but you create a less than ideal neighbour & society member upon his release. The incarceration IS the punishment, further punitive measures are self defeating and Pyrrhic victory of short term economic consideration over the longer term welfare of society.
    And lastly to those who bemoan the 'economic advantage' this would bestow upon the criminal class over the many law abiding youths cannot afford to attend college..
    I would say that your ire is woefully misdirected.
    Your outrage should be over the ridiculous cost of a college education in the US.
    The question you want to be asking is why a quality $5000pa college degree cannot be made available to all?

  52. Excellent idea, Bill.

    Yes, we need to discipline miscreants, but most of all, we need to return them to society as contributing, valuable members.

    Thanks for a fine article.

  53. While I think that it is a great idea to offer prisoners college courses especially since once they are out of prison this will help them get better employment and not return to crime, I can't help thinking why then aren't we subsidizing our students not in prison. Tuition at state colleges is becoming out of reach for many students with many graduating in debt that will take years to pay off. What about some relief them?

  54. I agree - there is no reason we have to wait for the government for this initiative.
    I anxiously await your check for $5,000 to support the first inmate in my new program.
    I call it the "if you think it is such a good idea why don't you cut a check for it Institute

  55. Governor Cuomo's idea faces a mountain of adversity, from politics, to the well known corruption within many prisons where those involved might use the money to line pockets, to an economy where Ivy League degrees are no guarantee of a job much less prison degrees.
    But David slew Goliath, and Governor Cuomo is a just man and to be admired for facing adversity to bring the possibility of education and opportunity to those in need.

  56. First, don't send non violent offenders to jail.
    However, I worked two jobs while in college and couldn't afford housing. All while doing a full class load. I'm sorry but the idea of committing a crime, getting free room and board while having all day to just study is offensive. Also, has it occurred to anyone that corporations LOVE their employees to be tens of thousands in debt. The better to exploit them. I say close the prisons and fund the colleges FOR EVERYONE.

  57. So Bernie Madoff shouldn't be in jail?

  58. I know logically that the Governor's proposal to help educate inmates so that they do not return to prison is sensible and good policy. I know that the incarceration rates, especially for crimes such as drug possession, are incredibly high. I know that we have substituted prison time for welfare spending and that is is unjust. All of this I know and understand.

    But I fear that the Governor's program won't go anywhere, because even as I understand what he is proposing, and believe it to be smart and sensible as well as just, I have an emotional reaction that is opposite. Why do my kids, who have killed themselves in high school trying to make sure that they can get into the best of our state schools, who have been careful not to get in trouble, and for whom we will spend *hundreds of thousands* in educating even in State schools, why don't they get a $5000 scholarship for being a good kid, and graduating in the top ten percent of their class?

    Until we solve the problem of just how expensive even a State education is, we will have a problem getting the Governor's extremely valuable idea passed. Because if parents like me - who support him - have mixed emotions, he just doesn't have enough support. I definitely suggest the next time he floats the idea, it shouldn't be at the time of year when parents are submitting their FAFSA forms.

  59. How about spending $5000 per student per year for all students in NY State schools?

    That would really be the just approach.

  60. Indeed. This situation has pitted law abiding families who cannot afford to send their children to college against prisoners who have the potential to change and be better Americans. This is a standard divide-and-conquer tactic. All Americans should have access to a college education…. period. Our student-loan-based system is a scam.

  61. Human being are wonderfully adaptable. Here's something that might challenge your views of what's possible (maybe even, what's desirable) in the sphere of crime and punishment.

    Greenland isn't Chicago or Baltimore or whatever your favourite violence hotspot is but still - <1% reoffending rate deserves consideration.

  62. If the Republicans really cared about the cost of college for non- prisoners, they would not have opposed Democratic initiatives to lower interest rates on college loans. But of course Republicans don't care-- they just are distracting people from yet another of their anti- family policies by directing people's anger towards someone other than what really hurts them, I.e. republican legislators

  63. What does this have to do with this article?

  64. Without pointing fingers at either of our two dysfunctional political parties, who represent not their constituents but their corporate backers, I would point out that investments in businesses that directly benefit from from our highest in the world incarceration rates are consistent money makers. This is but one simple example of immorality in our investment economy.
    There is a growing disconnect, promulgated by media of the economy's "health" and the actual state of the human condition. A robust economy is not an indicator of how common people are faring, only a picture of the growing disparity between the investment class and the lower castes.
    Lawmakers have little motivation to lower incarceration rates as their large donors are profiting from the prison industry.
    Funding work-study programs in secondary education and summer public employment for students would be one of several strategies to prevent many from acquiring a criminal record in the first place. Our culture permanently puts people at a disadvantage once they have a criminal record regardless of efforts to help give them a leg up after a conviction.

  65. We should provide free college and vocational tech classes for incarcerated criminals. OK, so it won't stop the killers and rapists and child molesters. But it might provide skills for dopers and thieves to get jobs when they get out. I remember one young kid who was a drug addict, who burgled a tire company and called the cops on himself. He told the cop who answered the call that he needed drug treatment and a job. The cop told him to get out of there. The kid stayed so the cop had to arrest him. Because he had a prior conviction for drugs, the judge I was temporarily in court with refused to send the kid to a drug treatment center and told him to be a man and cure himself. He sent him to prison. I called parole and told them to get him into a transition center for drug treatment and job training as soon as he was processed in the system. Parole agreed. We need to try to get people working, not stealing. And give them the drug treatment they need so they can spend money on food and housing, not drugs. it costs so much to imprison. I believe in using prison for killers and rapists and child molesters and all violent crimes. Educate the thieves and dopers and send them out to work and pay taxes. And legalize drugs and tax them too.

  66. And, I would add, start releasing those who are incarcerated only because of our draconian drug laws, and put the money that goes toward incarcerating them into educational programs for other inmates.

  67. In the1990's, I was a high school teacher whose assignments ran the gamut from AP Literature to non Regents classes. I also became an adjunct for Marist college and SUNY New Paltz -teaching English courses in the evening. I was helping to finance my own children's college education. My adjunct work in the prisons was some of the most rewarding of my professional career. The education system had failed many of these young men; they were bright- but uneducated- they had never learned basic skills. They were highly motivated, and they questioned and probed my lessons in ways that my more apathetic high school students did not. In short, I became a better teacher because of their determination to finally understand. It was the best professional development I ever had. I was delighted to hear that Gov. Cuomo was going to remedy the huge mistake made by the federal government in stopping Pell grants to prisoners back in the 90's because education can change lives. The purpose of incarceration should be to change behavior, and I know that it works!

  68. Mr. Jacobson's statement sums it up well: there is “almost a complete disconnect between what we know and what we do.”

    1. We don't know what we don't know: In graduate school, I worked on a project about fear of crime and the elderly. I learned a lot. For example, many older people are afraid of being victimized by street crimes, especially robbery and assault, when, in fact, they are far more likely to be the victims of fraud and white-collar crimes. Actually, we all are more likely to be the victims of white collar crimes (identity theft, embezzlement, forgery, bribery (see long list in Appendix A at: BUT, far fewer white-collar criminals are pursued, convicted, and punished than those committing street crimes and drug offenses.

    2. Whatever the offense, if you want to change behavior, plenty of research indicates punishment really doesn't work well. In fact, it just sets a model for employing aggressive, brutal behavior to get what you want (especially true for juvenile delinquents). Prisoners need to learn alternative responses to handling anger, desires, and getting what they want. Education is a much healthier/likely pathway out of crime. But hardliners want their pound of flesh--though not for the banksters, evidently.

    3. See 40-minute HBO documentary "University of Sing Sing"

    4. Politics ruins almost everything these days

  69. In general, I tend to be favorable to Mr Keller's take on this subject, but one caveat. He says that college degrees are becoming increasingly necessary for the better jobs, and he's right. But I am not so sure that those doing the hiring for those jobs would look at the college degree earned in prison as outweighing the fact they had been in prison in the first place. In which case college level instruction would have been wasted.

    We should also be aware that, in the general population, not everyone is cut out for college either, and among a prison population that percentage is likely to be even less for many of the same reasons they are there in the first place. So such a program will help only a subset of them at best. How do we rehabilitate the rest?

    I agree that we should aim to better rehabilitate felons, which would not only benefit them but ourselves as well. Perhaps Governor Cuomo's proposal should be test piloted to see if that approach would be successful. But even if successful, I suspect it would not affect the great mass of convicts, and we should not neglect their needs either.

  70. A simple solution that should satisfy both those who want to give ex-offenders a decent shot at life after prison and those who don't want to give criminals something for free that the law-abiding have to pay for: Offer inmates the chance at a college education, but include a payback provision once they are out and employed, as many grads have to repay their student loans.

  71. If the rationale for providing inmates a college education is cost saving, wouldn't it be even cheaper to get them into college programs BEFORE they commit a crime and go to prison in the first place? But that would require making sure all students have the resources they need to do well in public school. That would start by making sure our public schools had the resources they need to provide that education and the services and support at-risk students need. And by that I mean ALL of our public schools, not just the ones in Westchester. If the governor can find money to educate prisoners he should be able to find money educate children. Our public schools that aren't in wealthy districts desperately need funding.

  72. I happen to be a volunteer tutor with the Bard Prison Initiative and see first- hand the potential of some inmates. Good for Bard and its private donors. But let's remember it was President Clinton that first removed Pell eligibility for inmates and then later in NY Governor Pataki who deleted state educational funding for inmates. Sadly this issue is not a straight political one. Much to Bard's credit it is seeding similar programs around the nation including Notre Dame, Wesleyan and Berea....but come on, everyone, private dollars will never fit the bill....losing your freedom is punishment, don't take away their futures, too.

  73. Recent decline in crime?? Economy doing well?? We're doing good in foreign and domestic policies?? This wouldn't be another Broadway show put on by the democrats to get re-elected in 2016?

  74. I've heard about American teenagers who joined the Army to get a college education.

    Now I look forward to American Police TV fictional shows with the new reality:
    Investigator: "Why did you do it?"
    Suspect: "To go to jail and get a college education."

    You colonials really do need to get a grip on reality.

  75. I am more concerned about access to higher education for the non-criminal kids from the same neighborhoods and backgrounds.
    Unless we address access to higher ed and job training for all the less well off, we are only kidding ourselves.

  76. The idea of college degrees for prisoners would be ever so more acceptable to all of us in the general (read: non-corrections, non criminal) population were it not for the fact that college educations, even at public universities, cost SO MUCH for children and families who have scrupulously honored the law all their lives. For me, the issue isn't about the fact that a college education for those behind bars would be free to those who receive it; it's about the fact that it ISN'T free to those who most deserve it- those children and families whose taxes subsidize the education regardless of whoever gets it. In other words, the families of model citizens pay for every education at least twice, and perhaps more than that. And whether their own children can afford to go to college or not, those families have no choice in the matter when it comes to educating the incarcerated.

    Civilized countries have free public educations systems for ALL- not just the incarcerated. Uncivilized countries tolerate educational systems and public policies wherein everything is "monetized". By this method of evaluation, we have a long way to go to becoming a civilized country. We should begin with a public education system that offers college for minimal, affordable cost to all citizens whoa re not incarcerated, and then extend it to those who are in prison. They should not be first in line. Never mind the economics; there are issues of fairness here.

  77. Anyone interested in this subject should immediately check out the short documentary titled THE UNIVERSITY OF SING SING on HBO or HBO GO. Riveting.

  78. If we must continue to imprison our fellow citizens at the extreme rate we do - 5% of the world's population and 25% of its prisoners, we should at least try to give them the skills to rejoin society when they have finished serving their time. A college education may be controversial, but surely offering parenting skills that can help inmates build or maintain family connections, which have also been proven to reduce recidivism, makes sense. There is a terrific, evidence-based program, Parenting Inside Out, developed by the Oregon Social Learning Center and the Oregon Department of Corrections that both reduces parental recidivism and gives parents the skills to keep their own children from following them into crime. Unfortunately, too many prison systems don't seem to understand that, even for teaching parenting, using evidence-based programs can make the difference between time well spent and time wasted while in prison.

  79. It just makes me sick. I have tried many times to get a collage ed. but due to economic conditions I was not able to do so. Now I find out all I had to do is beat up some poor slob of a citizen and I can now get my collage ed. for free. Better watch out people. Now remember this if you come across a band of youths coming in your direction they are only trying to improve there lot in life. We should congratulate them for wanting to get ahead. If you only want to go by the numbers IE: $5k vs $60k, why not just execute them all. Hey that makes economic sense. $1k to cremate and $1 for the bullet. Glad I got out of NY.

  80. If you really wanted a degree you could take a community college course or two per semester as do many of my students. Most of them work, many work full time.

  81. Visit The Story of David to see that virtually all inmates would prefer a constructive life and a nearly cost-free way to spark the innate drive for work.

    The real problem is that those with a vested interest in the growth of private sector prison companies have no interest in reducing recidivism.

  82. Many of the same lawmakers who resist improving the lot of prisoners have fine-tuned the laws so that petty crimes are severely punished while white-collar crimes are given special allowances. And those same righteous lawmakers are so intent on punishing criminals that they block funds that would help to protect prisoners, especially younger ones, from sexual and physical violence. More important than higher education in prison is the fundamental need to protect prisoners from rampant violence committed by other prisoners and by the staff.

  83. There is a brand new initiative in Georgia tuition free. Although it was created for juveniles that are not in custody it can also be used in prisons. It offers skills courses and college credit. It is free.

  84. Free to whom.

  85. Two things strike me about the state senators's dissenting quotes: 1. They are from upstate constituencies, who profit from the prison-industrial complex; and 2. Maziarz's comment about a ¨competitive edge¨ is ludicrous. The US has one of the world's most punative correctional systems, denying voting rights and job access to felons.

  86. We don't have enough money to house all the criminals as it is. Why not teach them a trade. College isn't for everyone as we're finding out and it seems that people in prison already could use a trade school far more than a college. In fact we should attempt to teach a trade in high school and perhaps they wouldn't end up in prison to begin with.

  87. Trade school eduaction is available and active in Massachusetts prisons, at least partially, but I believe college degree programs are a must for those prisoners who want to learn and improve "life" skills, which is what a college degree dows. Boston University has run a college behind bars program to earn a BA for decades now, started by John Silber. The program is still in tact today although not as large as it used to be. Typically those interested need a year or more of remedial work to bring their skillls up to college level. Partakers is a support program for College Behind Bars, and which I belonged to for many years. The graduation ceremony at Norfolk prison for 16 or so prisoners who earned a degree (2010) was humbing and one of the most moving experiences of my life.

  88. Two second hand cars a mortgage and college loan debt that is what middle class Americans who get NO financial help of any kind to send their kids to college wind up with. And when our children get out of college no decent paying jobs for that education they and their families paid dearly for. So you are telling me a college educated inmate has as good a chance as they? Lets be real here.

    I would like to believe prison rehabilitates inmates, perhaps in many instances it does. And in others the individual is just a total waste on society. But to continually ask the shrinking middle class to foot the bill for others and they get no relief or college aid themselves is a serious problem our elected officials need to address before giving away a free college education to anyone.

    A college education in this new economy doesn't promise anything it used to. So let's add $5000 onto the $60,000 it already costs us to house an inmate. $65,000 per year can get any honest hard working, non-criminal, high school graduate an ivy league education!

    Trade programs yes. A college degree? No. Until there are some remedies for our law abiding kids. Inmates will have to make do with what they have. I say give the $ 1 million dollars to TAP in NYS. Oh, wait the middle class no longer gets any money from that program either.

    Free college for inmates and eventually illegals too? I don't have the money for my kids who helps me with them? Who represents the middle class?

  89. No one represents us that's why we're shrinking so fast. Our current administration seems to be doing everything in their power to make sure we continue the downhill spiral. All the while telling us we're in a recovery.

  90. The real 'college for criminals' appears to be the New York State legislature, where either criminals go to get educated in how to fleece the public more completely or upstanding citizens get educated in how to commit crimes: Eric Stevenson, Steven Katz, William Boyland, Pedro Espada, Hiram Monserrate, Malcolm Smith, Jimmy Meng ... the list of legislators who have gone to prison for crimes they committed while 'serving' in the legislature goes on and on and on. It's disgusting.

    The best flower on the cake is that many imprisoned former legislators collect pensions while in jail.

    Just why would any New York legislator want to let a former colleague earn an academic degree when the legislator wants to put as much distance as possible between the bird of a feather in prison from the bird of a feather in the legislative chambers?

  91. Why not teach a trade, using the proceeds to further the programs?

  92. When I saw the headline I thought this would be about a University for politicians. On second thought if these college programs become a reality that may turn out to be correct.
    In the current system people go to college become politicians and then are exposed as criminals. This way they become criminals first and then after being educated gravitate towards the profession that is best for them considering their criminal ways. Politics.
    It's perfect.

  93. Somewhere in here there is a grain of a good idea, but it troubles me to think of all the hard working people who do not commit crimes, and who are struggling to get by, and who are not being provided free housing, food, medical care, or educations. How is that fair? Maybe we need to put more focus on keeping people from getting into trouble in the first place. Perhaps a boot camp with occupational training and intensive training in personal responsibility for all juvenile offenders?

  94. I have a friend who, despite an early all-scholarship education to an exclusive private school where he did well, made a big mistake when he was a young man of about 19. He got in with a bad crowd (in his rough neighborhood), & ended up burgling a pharmacy to feed an Oxycontin addiction. He got caught, went to prison for a few years, & came out determined to succeed. But no one wants to hire anyone with a prison record. How on earth is anyone supposed to get back to being a normal, productive member of society in those circumstances? My friend was very determined not to get back in trouble, and a very smart person. He managed, with no capital, to start a small service business, & succeeded. But I wonder how well a less determined, less intelligent person would fare. With no supports, crime is easier than scrambling madly to create a business from nothing.

  95. The American criminal injustice problem is that America has 25% of the world prison population with only 5% of the world population. The problem is that of the 2.3 million people of prison includes a million mostly poor non-violent illegal black drug offenders.

    Treating a systemic criminal cancer with a topical anesthetic and antibiotic will fail. Prisons are too crowded inhuman and inhumane.

    While for decades more than twice as many whites have been arrested for all types crimes and for each type of crime except robbery and gambling as compared to blacks whites get a pass and blacks are persecuted. FBI Uniform Crime Reports/ U.S. Bureau of Prisons "The New Jim Crow" Michelle Alexander Wall Street greed and fraud and incompetence is excused.

    Crime and poverty are colored blind problems of ignorance and white supremacist prejudice and bigotry. America's original sins of personhood denying slavery and equality ignoring Jim Crow have not been cured nor completely and effectively addressed.

    Turning American prisons into a better educational opportunity is akin to better agricultural training and limited work hours for black American slaves. College for criminals is a Jim Crow "separate but equal" rerun.

    It is time to limit prison to violent or chronic major criminals regardless of race and class and ethnicity. There is a chronological correlation and a causation between race and ethnicity and socioeconomic educational political status.

  96. I'm always at amazement that as a "Christian Nation" we seem to get upset when fellow citizens might receive some type of assistance or hand-out and heaven forbit I have worked all my life and what do I get. I believe what God has for you is yours and if this program prevents me or mine from getting knocked in the head so be it. Been there done that. Yes, there will be corruption. There is corruption in everything. And as stated before we need to find ways to reduce the price of a college educaiton for all our citizens. My girls owe over $50,000 in students loans. Our elected officals get hand-outs and assistance all the time but no one seems to be up in arms over that. We are a very selfish nation. I guess we forgot the story about the shepherd leaving his flock just to save one sheep. O, that's right , it didn't cost him $5,000.

  97. What you miss is that Christianity calls for charity which is an inately personal thing. Christianity calle for me to be charitable not for me to hane all my money over to the state and have them distribute that for me. That is not charity. That is the antithesis of charity.

  98. Michael F,

    But if you did hand ALL your money over to the state and have it distributed for you then a lot more charity would be accomplished than if you simply, from time-to-time, hand over a little money for some charitable purpose, wouldn't you agree? That doesn't seem the antithesis of charity. Jesus said if you have two coats and your neighbor none, give one. That's half of what you've got and quite an onus, imposed by your Lord. Giving smaller amounts, therefore, seems the antithesis of charity.

  99. A thought on the numbers being thrown out here. the 5k vs 60k is a compelling comparison but not totally relevant, unless you have evidence that all inmates who receive a college education will not return. For those who do return to prison, the real comparison is 60k vs 65k.

    The question which needs to be asked is, given the fact that there is a limited amount of money available for education, where is the greatest return generated. While I agree that the inmate population needs education, will the fact of their record make the attaining of a degree less useful in finding employment than the equivalent degree for a non-inmate? And if so, does it make more sense to apply the funding where it has the greatest chance of accomplishing the goal of assisting the graduate to find better employment?

  100. Please refine your argument. The $5K and $60K are applied to aggregate numbers, such that we should look at the expected cost, over some selected time period, of predicted outcomes. If we have 25% recidivism over 5 years with college program, 50% without, like that, you know.
    Of course, the answer to the question in your second paragraph is already known, the non-inmate has the edge, but the point is to alleviate the cost to society of criminal behavior, which is not addressed by the suggestion that we instead do all we can to get non-inmate graduates a job.

  101. If Cuomo can educate prisoners for $5,000 per year, how come the general public has to pay $5,000 per semester for tuition & books at SUNY Stony Brook? That is what the students pay and doesn't include what NYS contributes to the SUNY system. How is he educating prisoners for half the price? When all students can attend a SUNY for that price, I'll be more inclined to support his proposal. Furthermore, will employers who require a college degree be willing to overlook the felony conviction? If they aren't, it's a waste of money. I have a problem giving criminals a second chance at the expense of law abiding citizens getting their first chance.

  102. Rob a car, get a college education. A great trade-off.

  103. Yeah prison is so much fun

  104. The Repubs reaction to Gov Cuomo's idea is a howl about the cost to the State,and they have no concern about the cost to society. Here is an idea that would cost the state and society less money in both the long and short run. Give every non-violent inmate between the ages of 17 to 25 a choice between jail and college. Put them in a college dorm instead of a prison cell and tell them they can stay there with free room and board and books and fees as long as they dont mess up.Amazingly, this plan would cost us less than keeping them locked up.If you think education is expensive

  105. I have seen first hand what an excellent program the Bard Prison Initiative truly is. I was recently released from a female NY State Correctional Facility. While I obtained my college degree (at my own expense) prior to my incarceration, I know women who participated in and completed the program. The program is more than what it offers the inmates while incarcerated, it's also about the support they receive upon release. There is continuing education, employment opportunities, the program does not stop when you walk out the prison gates. While all state institutions do provide some basic vocational programs in addition to the ability to obtain a GED, the Bard program offers something not typically available to inmates - the opportunity to turn their life around, the opportunity to obtain a quality college education without any outside distractions - most importantly it offers a majority of those enrolled a once in a lifetime chance at a college education. Do not get me wrong it certainly is not easy going to college behind bars, there are severe limits on access to research materials and computers - in the facility I was at the women did not even have the ability to type their research papers, everything was done by hand, but these women were dedicated and WANTED to do it - that is the key. Prisons are not only for punishment but also for rehabilitation - what not require the inmates enrolled in college to give something back to the community upon release.

  106. If the cost of a college education for inmates is $5,000 per inmate per year as the governor noted, why are public colleges and universities very often charging multiples of that amount for our non-incarcerated citizens? I realize that part of the added cost is for items such as athletic and health-care facilities, laboratories and administration that are not applicable to prisons, but nonetheless the disparity in costs seems ... excessive. Perhaps the governor has opened up an area for further investigation.

  107. Because universities often offer college prison classes at deep discounts; the cost often defrayed by the university itself. Also, college prison courses are often taught by volunteer or adjunct professors, who are paid a small stipend (under $2000 per class, if at all) when teaching through a university, rather than the full salary of a typical college professor.

  108. If you take out the cost savings you mention and look at your local community college, I would bet you get pretty close to that $5000 a year per student. As a matter of fact, I just went on my local community college's website and found that they use a number of $4615 for one year of just tuition and fees. Almost spot on.

  109. Maybe we should give some non-criminals the chance to get a college education for around 5K a year.

  110. Yes, education is fine, in prison or not. But why college? For some prisoners, might not a good trade education, with a possible internship on release, be a better solution? A college degree should not be the goal; a worthwhile education should be.

  111. You make a good point, but part of the point of college education is to train offenders in critical thinking skills as well as personal/psychological reflection, so that, once out of prison, they are able to make better choices. Trade school would solve the employment problem of ex-offenders, but it may not give them cognitive skills to help decision-making in the future. I agree that trade school is perfectly appropriate for many offenders (and most prisons already have these in place), but would argue that critical thinking is a skills that many criminals lack.

  112. Hmm. Then there are the private prisons and municipal contracts with prisons for prisoners to do slave labor. What a way to get cheap labor and to keep 'em dumb. The entire system is one of repression, methinks.

  113. After nearly 23 years of working inside the Texas prison, a system that provided opportunities for offenders to attend college for many years until the GOP stopped the practice, I can assure you that providing an education to someone with an antisocial personality disorder, does not alter "criminal thinking errors." I suggest that you enlighten yourself by first removing the naval lens you have installed & reading the series of texts called, "The Criminal Personality" by Samuel Yochelson, Ph.D., M.D., & Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D. For further reference, you can also read a book for the layperson, "Inside the Criminal Mind by Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D. In my extensive experience, I have witnessed countless missed opportunities by offender who continue to emit criminal behavior that prevents them for attending class. Yes, there are some who do attend & finish college; however, many of these individuals return to prison for one simple reason, they haven't changed their criminal intent. Texas used to teach offenders how to program computers using Cobalt, etc. Guess what happened? Computer crimes followed. Sorry. For some offenders, you are helping to create a better-educated psychopath. This myth of providing education is nearly as old as the prison industry. Pull your head out!

  114. Merely "working in the Texas prison system" doesn't necessarily lend legitimacy to your position. For all I know, you could have been a groundskeeper or in charge of the motor pool.
    Instead of kicking people when they are down, we should be giving them a hand up.

  115. I believe you mean teaching them COBOL, not COBALT. Cobalt is actually a car now in total recall.

  116. $5000 to educate. What's the cost of doing nothing? $60,00 per year for each year of the next sentence. Pretty simple math to me.

  117. I know of no entitlement whose budget did not grow exponentially. $5,000 today, how much tomorrow? Just look at the cost of college going up much greater than the consumer price index.

  118. When you go around and beat people up for whatever reason, there are, unavoidably, unintended consequences. Too often, paradoxically, those consequences may be the exact opposite of the intended consequence. Like, for example, when we go kill "terrorists" to keep us safe but, in the process, end up turning their friends and families into new terrorists.

    Nonetheless, however rational it may be to limit the amount of "beating up" which we engage in, it doesn't matter. Why? Because we humans have been wired, for survival purposes, to FEEL good when we annihilate (or, at least, isolate) threats. Hence the phrase, 'vengeance is sweet'. And those forbears of ours who were more likely to see threats around every corner were the humans who were most likely to pass on their genes to the rest of us.

    Problem is, we've graduated from clubs, spears and even guns and bombs in how we annihilate or isolate "threats." The inability to also graduate from that 'vengeance is sweet' FEELING however is, as this op-ed demonstrates, going to cost us in ways not well appreciated.

    Let's just hope that it doesn't cost us so much that the unintended consequences are more than we can bear.

  119. If you talk with people who live upstate, they have a very different view.

  120. And that view is....?

  121. As usual, the Republican response is one of hate and short-sightedness. In the end, if former inmates can have a better chance of becoming a law abiding, productive and tax contributing part of society for a fraction of the cost of their recidivism, why wouldn't you do this? It makes fiscal sense and it makes crime prevention sense. Of course, Republicans are all about wedge issues and appealing to the lower base instincts of their base- most of whom make sure they go to church every Sunday and extol the teachings of Jesus. GOP=Hypocrites.

  122. Because Repubs thrive on hating and punishing everyone who ever made a mistake - something they themselves apparently never do.

  123. Exactly what our society needs, smarter criminals. Who decides who gets educated and at what risk to society at large?

  124. All the evidence indicates that when they are smarter and have better job skills, they stop being criminals. A large percentage of those in prison are there for drug offenses, not robbery or violent crime. Most criminals are made, not born, and can be unmade with the help of an education.

  125. The Republicans and the forces of Organized Money won't even let us expand regular education.

  126. You can educate a prisoner for $5,000, whereas you need several multiples of that to attend most public and private colleges and universities. It is clear that the cost of a college education is grossly inflated. If this country wants to remain a global force, it's time to reform higher ed.

    As for educating prisoners, I certainly hope a portion of their wages are garnished for some period of time to help defray the cost to the taxpayers. I certainly never walked away from my financial obligations from attending school...

  127. This is interesting as at this time the only way you can get a "job' is by being a prisoner and working in the prison industrial system for forty cents an hour. Now it seems that the only affordable education left to working class people is to get it in the prison university system. Pretty soon Attica University will be rejecting applicants. And pretty soon the republicans will find a way to charge ridiculous tuitions.

  128. You forgot something in your calculations - th e$60,000 a year we are spending to house, feed, clothe and provide medical care to the prisoner while he's attending college for $5,000 per year.

  129. Education does not make people smarter. It just makes them better informed. Those of you who think it makes sense to pay $60,000 a year to keep re-incarcerating people as opposed to $5,000 to help them live a better life and not be a liability to society--well, I have some investment opportunities I'd like to show you...

  130. And since education hasn't made you make smarter choices, let me show you some special educational programs I've put together for you... for just $60,000... a month...

  131. Nobody has suggested that everyone deserves an education. We need a society where all citizens are trained for a useful profession, and our government should be protecting jobs through trade policies that keep Americans working. The problems we are having are self-created by an economic system of greed and selfishness, a governing body that is bought and controlled by the wealthiest citizens, and a lack of caring for each other. Be sure all youth have training and job opportunities before they become criminals. Solve the problem before it starts.

  132. I bring direct experience to this discussion, having taught in several upstate NY medium security prisons from 1977-1985. Because of my diverse academic background, I taught classes to inmates (psychology and political science) as well as to the employees (criminal justice), all of whom were advancing their education to achieve an A.A or A.S. Degree from SUNY Ulster County Community College.

    I do not know if I assisted in creating smarter criminals, but I do know I had a hand in encouraging inmates to further their education once they left prison, as many did. One student is a well-respected attorney on Long Island. Another is a paralegal in NYC. Yet another is a social worker in his community and has been profiled on national television. Some are business owners.

    An under-appreciated fact by those who oppose college for prisoners is the effect on the quality of life at the prison for staff and inmates. An educated and engaged population is a more manageable population. In my 8 years of prison teaching with there was *never* a disturbance in the college wing.

    Twenty years after the loss of the Pell Grant, is it not time to revisit that unfortunate decision, at least on the state level, and breathe life back into prison education?

    I applaud Governor Cuomo for taking a noteworthy first step.

  133. Focussing on the cost of a college education for offenders is missing the point completely. Any extra money at all must be spent on mental health care for inmates. Addressing the extremely high rate of mental illness within the prison population is the best way to reduce recidivism and protect public safety. A college education is nice, but proper treatment for severe mental illness is critical.

  134. Giving a college education to criminals while law-abiding, taxpaying citizens struggle to pay their own way is just ethically wrong.

  135. Yes but what is worse? Tax payers paying $50,000 a year for criminals to converse with one another and exchange ideas, or paying $5,000 a year for criminals to receive a better education, which will therefore reduce the crime rate, and the amount of money we put into our prisons. Obviously, there are many imperfections in this plan, but if the American people want a better society with less crime, we can't let our pride get in the way of making a better future.

  136. It's not mutually exclusive. If we can educate criminals for $5,000/year, the government should be supporting education so everyone can be educated for the same amount. The costs of higher education--public as well as private--have become insupportable for too many people.

  137. Reduce the cost to $5000 per year to keep a criminal incarcerated.

  138. The cost can be reduced to 0 if sentences matched those in civilized nations such as the EEU, and 3/4 of those in prison were released. The money saved by closing upstate prisons would pay for both college for former prisoners AND high school graduates.
    Finally, I am sick of this tripe of alleged victims testifying for longer sentences.

    First of all, in the civilized world a criminal trial is on behalf of the public, not a personal vendetta. Just to get to basic facts, my tax dollars support prosecutors and police, even trash such as NYC Detective Scardella.

    Second, I pay for my ESPN, I don't ask New York to pay for it. If an alleged victim, which actually they are not--their remedy is a civil suit for damages--wants additional sentence time, then they need to pay the $60,000 per year for the incarceration. If enacted, then Chief Justice Roberts can find that a constitutional right.
    Just pointing out that if the so-called perpetrator is in prison then he would not be able to pay for a civil damage award.

  139. Got any specific ideas on how to do that?

  140. What's interesting is that jail is already a "college" for criminals, where many exchange tips, hone their expertise and become better at making a living through crime when they are released. And we see through recidivism rates that a life of crime can be a distinct possibility for anyone incarcerated once. I welcome the opportunity to show them a different path.

  141. I suspect strongly that you have never spent any time in jail but know all about inmates, huh? Florida has a wait of ten years for rights restoration of ex-felons. Now, does it really surprise you when people in such states relapse into crime as the only meaningful source of income?

  142. Reinhold - it sounds like you are arguing in agreement. That's what I'm saying. Jail and the onus it imparts (not to mention the issues you raise about the lack of felons' rights after they pay their debt to society) stack the odds against them and it's no surprise when they end up back in jail. So we agree on that point.

    I am saying, education IN PRISON at least offers them another avenue to follow when they leave, although they will still be encumbered by the other problems you highlight.

  143. We can keep on imprisoning people, never let them get any farther in life than being criminals, and see them return to prison in three years or less because they have no skills and no money to acquire those skills or, heaven help us, we can, while they are incarcerated and in a place where we can reach them, give them the education they didn't get. It costs far more to keep on imprisoning a person than it does to educate them so they can work. The benefit is that if they get out with an education they may get a job and then pay taxes, stay out, and contribute to society. In prison all they are is a cost to us. And many of them have undiagnosed learning disabilities, mental health issues, or were never in school long enough to learn. As a captive population they can be monitored, mentored, and taught and we should want that to keep them out once they are released.

    Conservatives should want this since it saves money. Liberals should want it because it's more humane to try to educate and correct than let them become better criminals. Since most of them get out anyway we might as well have them come out with something other than a record to show for it. Being able to get an education in college or as an apprentice while in prison forces inmates to think and learn how to be good citizens. If they didn't pick up these habits before, prison is one place to learn them. They may decide that being free is better than being incarcerated. And that saves us a lot of money.

  144. May I be candid? What group makes up the preponderance of inmates in the prison system? Historically speaking since when has American society ever really been interested in educating those from that specific demographic?

    We choose to ignore, as always, the attitudes of this nation towards certain groups, which is the basis for the remonstration towards any intelligent and practical alternative...

  145. Have the Koch brothers and Sheldon A. pay for it, not tax payers. You're crazy if you think taxpayers owe criminals an education.

  146. The term "owe" is quite wrong here. If schools were to have consistent quality throughout the nation, we would probably be able to stop the school-to-prison pipeline. What we need to do is to protect society. What better way to "protect" than to grow citizens educated enough to collaborate in the common endeavor? The penal system is frought with "get even" thinking. It shouldn't be so. A society has a right to protect itself; it does not have a right to vengeance, as John Paul II put it so nicely. Enlightened self-interest should lead us to educate inmates. "Owing" has nothing to do with it, though we did owe a decent education, to begin with.

  147. Nobody said we "owe" it to them - just that it would be smart to provide it as we'd save potentially hundreds of millions of public dollars in the future if we did.

  148. Perhaps the government should be subsidizing college education for everybody..

  149. In reading Keller's excellent column and Kristof's well-intentioned article today, it strikes me that they are way too many politicians and Americans who genuinely do not wish their fellow citizens well--quite the reverse, actually.

    Consider Paul Ryan's punishing GOP budget to be voted on today (again, as in the past two years), and all those other trumped up GOP votes designed to pander to the greedy oligarchs and the rabid right-wing base--nothing like 43 votes against health insurance for the uninsured amongst us, and trying to scrap our most important social programs for older Americans, small children, and poor women. Are their mothers proud of them, or what?

    We are becoming like the Israelis and the Palestinians: God forbid peace should break out. Make war not love!

  150. It is difficult to rationalize providing a college degree to people who are incarcerated, it implies a bonus for having committed a crime. It is more difficult because college costs are astronomical, and a large hardship on people. I myself am 43 and still owe about 40k for my education (BA & MA). The reason for providing an education to inmates are many and convincing, but the emotional sting is still there to any middle class person struggling with college debt.

    But is that not the real issue? I should be glad to have my tax dollars help put a former inmate on a solid future that does not involve crime. Perhaps many people would gel to the idea. But this is America a nasty cut throat society that puts people in debt from their early 20's, making them much less likely to have or desire to share their "wealth".

    College needs to be provided and vastly more affordable for ALL citizens. Then maybe we wouldn't have such backlash against an obviously beneficial program.

  151. We should provide them and those like you both with a college ed.

  152. Another false dichotomy from republicans: either kids or cons. No way repubs can see the need to provide opportunities for both. So many challenges; so few bootstraps.

  153. Funny. For a science-wonk whose only source of income is educational grants.

    We Republicans see you 'progressives' spending OUR money poorly. And in huge volumes. On lots of feel-good programs. That don't work.

  154. As if Republicans actually care much about education -- breaking unions, increasing unaccountable, privatized charter schools, cutting budgets, politicizing curricula. The Republicans push for "caring" for children's education is laughable and bogus.

  155. Why not start by curbing the growth of prisons by diverting people arrested for non-violent drug charges into treatment? Then spend the savings from that on real rehabilitation -- college, training, temporary housing support until the person is ready to stand on their own?

    But regardless, cutting $1 million from a $2.8 billion budget is mean-spirited, the sort of simple-minded reaction that makes problems worse and more expensive, not better and cheaper. Not every inmate is Charlie Manson, for pete's sake.

    And hey, here's a radical suggestion: let's invest lots more in public education, so those hand-wringers don't have to worry so much about people who "skrimp and borrow to send their kids to college"?

    And if the retort to that is, "where do we find the money," then I ask you: How are we managing to pay for the most expensive prison system in the world?

  156. Now that many prisons are privatized corporate america wants them bigger.

  157. This appears to be another discussion in which a monetary value is placed on "a college education". However, those of us who are "college educated" may contribute to society at many levels, as well as being "role models" to any number of needy and confused young people. No monetary value can be placed on this.
    Rednecks (in any income bracket) may oppose "education". They, themselves, are obvious examples of why college counts.

  158. The money would be better spent on educating children so that they don't turn into criminals, or as college scholarships to low income high school students. It is unethical to give prisoners a free college education when so many law-abiding people can't afford it.

  159. It's not unethical and low income high school students can access loans, grants and jobs to finance a college education, something prisoners can't do.

    It's not about ethics or morals. How can it be unethical to educate someone? Not doing it is called "cutting off your nose to spite your face."

  160. This does not have to be zero-sum game. A society with its priorities straight would be—and could be—doing all of these things. And keeping young people on the right path is far more a function of good parenting than good schools.

  161. No; it's not "either/or." Money would be better spent on _both_ educating children more _and_ on educating those who missed the first opportunity. If we really want prisoners to be able to leave prison and _not_ return, they need the _opportunity_ to learn to empower themselves through non-criminal means. Education has always been the best tool for that; for children _or_ adults.

  162. College is not for everyone. Years ago when a college education was more affordable, everyone who graduated from high school did NOT go to college. And all inmates will not be going either. It requires a certain amount of discipline and desire. Not everyone has that, inside or outside. If people are determined to make college affordable, then colleges would have to be stripped down to the barest necessities - classes and a library. No sports, no extra curricular activities, no counseling, etc. Nore more tenure, just adjuncts. Sounds a lot like what a college will be in a prison environment.

  163. It also requires interest - skilled crafts are also worthy of being promoted. I would not want to be a diesel mechanic or plumber but those who are make good livings.

  164. how many accounts do we get of the ones that were educated in prison and did well after being released? not many. (by choice... is my guess.) what position are we in, then, to determine what most--or even many--prisoners do with education (i.e. a chance)? ...if education isn't a fair form of rehabilitation, what is? ...when we're saying criminals should REMAIN imprisoned, who are we referring to? who do we think we're refering to? and does that also include robert h. richards iv OR the teacher that the system deemed too pretty to go to jail? are any of these stay-a-prisoner people fighting to have them incarcertated forever? might an effective rehabilitation system effect those whose ROI depends on the prison population being robust? (what position are you (investors) taking in this argument?)


  165. Sociopaths are made not born. If you chain up a puppy, beat him and starve him long enough, he will become a mean dog. Once we are willing to accept that truth, we will be willing to attack the forces that promote criminality. That may mean spending money on some folks who have made bad choices in life. But, to quote Mother Teresa, “I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness.”

  166. When I was a Deputy Sheriff in Wyandotte Co., KS in the 1970s I sometimes accompanied or retrieved prisoners from the State Penitentiary in Lansing, KS. From that experience and a number of others I became a firm advocate of realistic rehabilitation and prison education. At that time there were some small but realistic programs going and there were some remarkable success stories. There was, however, another side to this issue.

    That side is that many prisoners in state penitentiaries and elsewhere in the prison system are not very amenable to education. Many of them can't read or write beyond an elementary school level and some of these never will. Some of the prisoners I talked to couldn't even sign their names. One fellow in particular after considerable effort memorized a block letter signature that ran the first and last names together. The simple fact is that a large number of prisoners are well under normal intelligence with a large percentage in the 80 to 90 IQ level and many are below that. Even the equivalent of an 8th grade education is not possible for them, let alone a junior college degree.

    As our society moves toward a workforce that requires more and more sophisticated knowledge and training we are still stuck with a large number of people for whom manual work is all that they will be capable of. Before we develop unrealistic hopes we need to face that fact and prepare for it, and the fact that many jobs on this level are drying up fast.

  167. What a mess. We have an opportunity to fix what we can and we do not take it. Once again, political positioning wins over common sense. Similar to the failed D.A.R.E. programs and the Adam Walsh Act, we completely ignore the facts and go with emotions- thus, the "ethics" argument raises its ugly head. In the face of overwhelming competent and scientific evidence that D.A.R.E. and Adam Walsh Act do nothing to decrease drug abuse and sex offending respectively, the Politicos lead us by the nose into oblivion. And its an expensive mistake.

    In the 70s, fueled by the Nixon Administration's "Law and Order" schtick, many states passed criminal justice reform acts that redefined post-conviction incarceration and being merely "incapacitation" and abandoning most of the "corrections" (let's fix it) paradigm. There was no "correction" and there still is not much.

    If we could make someone less of a risk to commit another crime when released from a period of incarceration and, therefore, make our communities safer, why would we not do this? I think we all know why.

  168. The RAND analysis that you refer to either considers the selection bias you mention, in which case the 43% reduction is reliable and your "even assuming" caveat is unnecessary, or it does not and 43% means almost nothing. This is not a trivial point. Indeed it is the reason that some people are suspicious of the performance data in many educational studies. This includes the shaky conclusion that charter schools outperform traditional schools and equally questionable conclusion that the most prestigious colleges add the greatest value to their students. In both cases, we need to compare those who attend with a comparable control that does not. The problem is in deciding what constitutes comparable. So, if the RAND study compares those in the college program with a virtually identical group that does not, they must include desire to be in the program as one of the points of comparison. But if the ins and the outs are equally enthusiastic, they immediately develop another important difference, degree of resentment. However much these groups were indistinguishable before the program was initiated, they may have a major difference in attitude after.

  169. Your critique doesn't really contemplate how meta-analyses are done. They're not based on controlled studies, obviously; they're based on running statistical regression analyses on the data. The methods, though not as scientifically reliable as a well-designed controlled study, nonetheless can and do provide very useful and useable data.

  170. The most important thing you can do after giving an inmate some training, trade, and literacy is to provide a workplace guaranty to a potential employer, and maybe a tax break for employing the reformed criminal. It is true this is going to be very, very difficult, but a an employer won't put them to work unless s/he is sure that the criminality won't surface again. A bonding system could work, along with tax incentives for the employer. Just an idea...

    It will be hard for people to accept that reformed criminals may be getting a better deal than kids who never did anything wrong and who can't find a job, but we are at wits end to solve the prison industrial complex we have now. It just makes good economic sense to keep criminal actors out of the prison system, away from violence and drugs, and into productive society. Plus, they can get a good life out of the deal.

    There needs to be a major resurgence of programs like Head Start to reach children very early and imbue them with mainstream values, skills and good nutrition to help prevent their slipping into criminality as a cultural norm of poverty. Head Start actually worked! Let's give it another try!

  171. Why do we, as a society, dedicate so many resources to trying to rescue low achievers instead of maximizing the potential of our high achievers? I am not opposed to giving a convicted criminal an improved chance of improving their life and breaking the cycle of crime but I am strongly against doing this at the cost of letting a bright poor kid not go to college because they cannot afford it. Lets make sure that every teenager with the drive and ability can go to a decent school before we start allocating those resources to rehabilitating criminals. Ideally we can do both together but given the choice I pick those who have not yet chosen to break the law.

  172. How in the world does our society _not_ "maximize the potential of high achievers"? What world are you talking about? I can't think of many "high achievers" I know who have somehow been thwarted _by_ our society in "maximizing" their potential. HUH?

  173. I've taught in a prison for several years now. In my experience, my students were guys who'd dropped out of school before graduating, and most got their GEDs while in prison. This was a chance they would never otherwise have had, and they took it seriously.

    Furthermore, spare me the cries of the taxpayer dollar. It is cheaper to educate and rehabilitate offenders and prevent them from returning to prison than it is to have them reoffend and be reincarcerated, and education is the best way to do that (it's not perfect, but it's good). I would rather have my tax dollars going toward making people better citizens than locking them up. And plenty of my tax dollars are already going towards education for "good" citizens, so I have no qualms in helping the "bad" ones become better. There's no law that says we only help good citizens; instead, we help people who need it. We are America.

    Finally, for those of you saying it gives felons a leg up over citizens -- that is patently false. A felony record, which has to be disclosed on nearly every employment application, makes the jobs ex-offenders can get few and far between, and extraordinarily low-paying, often leading them back to crime in order to make money to live and pay back their legal bills.

    So, please. Education for felons is a good thing, both short-term for them, the medium-term for our communities, and the long-term for us taxpayers.

  174. The major reason ex-cons go back to prison is due to hiring discrimination by employers. For example, background checks. Many inmates have a college degree and can't get hired. The Government will not hire people without clearances, and usually you can't get cleared with a felony conviction. Our "Christian" nation ought to practice what Jesus taught, and rid themselves of their vindictive mindset. Remember, in reality God sees us as one. If you are worthless, then so is God.

  175. Our "Christian" nation hasn't behaved like a real one in quite some time--if ever. Hiring discrimination is a major factor in the problems of former prisoners; in addition, we incarcerate people for idiotic things and then are surprised when they emerge from prison with a whole new set of skills learned in desperation. Many of the folks incarcerated do need more education, need better skills' training, but many of them, also, didn't need to be incarcerated in the first place.
    A responder to this article also noted that online education would be far cheaper; perhaps, but certainly not better. Most online education that I've seen hasn't been worth the development money. Furthermore, it doesn't promote the personal contacts that teacher led education does. Many of these former prisoners need to make real, helpful contacts.

  176. Cuomo proposal was courses can be used at virtually no cost to the taxpayer...some mentoring and organization is needed.but the cost of this can be carried by a nonprofit..the cost is the barrier to acceptance.if it's no cost..there's no objection..cuome is 5 years behind the time..we don't need an employment plan for colleges

  177. Yeah, sure. Prisons are filled with computers with high-speed Internet access, available to all. Just like at public libraries.

  178. According to a neighbor I once had who spent 5 years at Huntsville followed by 2 years at El. Reno, there is no such thing as rehabilitation. If someone wants to go straight, they will. If not, all education does is train smarter crooks. I once assisted in a case in which a burglar had learned locksmithing while in prison. Needless to say, he put his training to good use after being released, committing more than a hundred burglaries of storage facilities before being caught strictly by accident. Viva la revolcuion.

  179. One wonders how many of these negative statements are by people who actually read this article. The facts are pretty straightforward.

    So you're friend new a lot of cons who received educations that would actually enable them to get jobs, huh? Or perhaps he hung out with the crowd of recidivists. Did he keep in touch with all the ex cons he knew who did go straight, after leaving prison with any education? Or did he spend his time while in prison surrounded by the large chunk of the population who were recidivists? The term for that is selection bias.

    Anecdotal evidence doesn't equal rational analysis. People learn that in college.

  180. Oh, brother.

    Do you really want to divert badly-needed funds from the NYS education budget to support COLLEGE courses for cons? Are they worth more than the money that could be spent for preschools and elementary education?

    Sounds like you feel-good 'progressives' need to get your house in order. Step one is taken by removing terms like RACISM from the argument.

  181. Jails cost a lot more than educating. Recidivism is a major factor in the prison explosion. Giving petty criminals a chance at a new life when they get out makes fiscal sense.

  182. You didn't read the article very well. It's not a "feel-good progressive" agenda item. It's a practical proposal -- according to the great bastion of feel-good progressives, the RAND corporation, recidivism among those who participate is nearly 50%. So assume $6,000/year/prisoner; 4 years makes $24,000. Half of those people will return. Now compare that with the cost of incarceration, $60,000/year. So, for $24,000/year/prisoner, you're effectively reducing the cost per prisoner who _returns_ by $30,000/year.

    And yes, latent racism certainly plays a bar in the fear-mongering associated with prisoners and incarceration. It's only racist to _assume_ that the incredibly disproportionate number of minorities are incarcerated because, well, people "like that" just commit more crimes.

    The tone of your post, starting with "oh, brother" belies intellectual laziness reflected in the disconnect in our policies, between, as the expert put it, "What we know" and "What we do."

  183. This servile capitulation, as well as the disbanding of the promised anti-govt-corruption panel, reveals Cuomo to be anything but a principled leader. Meet the new boss....

  184. Our society's habit is to pay -- reluctantly -- to solve problems, not to invest to prevent problems from happening. Thus, we don't like paying for health insurance for everyone -- we actually prefer that they get really sick and then pay much more for emergency room and end-of-life care. Same with prison education programs... because people are so vindictive and narrow minded, and so impervious to truth as opposed to their fantasies, they would rather pay $60,000 a year for additional terms of imprisonment than $5,000 a year to avoid those additional terms of imprisonment.

    From an economic standpoint, preventing problems is far more intelligent and effective than letting problems occur. But with so many stupid and myopic people on the outside, it seems unlikely we will ever effectively educate and rehabilitate the vast majority of those on the inside.

  185. If we educate criminals and reduce recidivism, there definitely be fewer jobs for law-abiding citizens. Think of all the wardens and corrections officers who will be out of work! And why pay criminals for their labor if we can get it for free by keeping them incarcerated? Prisons are big business in the US, they exist on the scale that they do for purposes beyond punishment, public safety, or rehabilitation.
    Perhaps we should take the same tactic we're beginning to employ with hospitals: alter the financial incentives by rewarding good outcomes and no longer blindly compensating all "readmissions."

  186. Texas has long had its own Independent School District solely to provide basic education to prisoners. In addition it also has agreements with many local community colleges to provide higher education to prisoners, may of whom come out with both High School and College Degrees.

  187. Ohio, too.

  188. After paying or while paying their dues to society, to the highest degree, the incarcerated should have the opportunity to reform themselves. A college degree can help to acccompliment rehilbilation. For non violent offenses, former prisoners should not be punished for the rest of their lives. The cost to the individual is great, the cost to society is even greater.

  189. Good idea and if they do not already do it offer training in welding, pipefitting, plumbing, electrician, auto and diesel mechanics & include transition apprenticeships as part of parole. Voting rights automatically restored when released &/or parole completed.

    Time to move on - including those in jail for possessing what are now legal amts of marijuana. Ridiculous to pay for jail when the crime in no longer a crime.

  190. The fact of the matter is that crime costs society. Other arguments aside, practicality suggests that reducing those costs is to our collective advantage. And, if educating inmates lowers recidivism, the upfront cost of that policy is worthwhile.

  191. The U.S. is in negotiations for the next generation of nuclear weapons. The total cost of these weapons is about the same as the total amount of college tuition which will be paid over the next thirty years. Thus, the U.S. is involved in a debate, which the people do not even know about, over which is more important: (a) should kids be able to get a college education without incurring back breaking debt, or (b) should the people buy a bunch of bombs they will definitely never even use.

    I doubt that anyone could find a study that some amount of education, however meagre, will make a person worse. Therefore, given that the best that we can do is the best we can do to make things better, it is hard to justify not providing some education opportunities to the incarcerated. We owe this to ourselves. We have to be decent. Moreover, the hardliners can console themselves with the facts that even if the plans are well executed, it is unlikely that education in prison will be very good, and that America will always be a vindictive, unforgiving place, so it is unlikely very many "criminals" will ever get ahead in life.

  192. I taught in an offshoot of the Bard program mentioned in Keller's piece. It was one of the most exciting classes I've ever been part of: the students were highly motivated to consider the same big liberal arts questions we discuss on campus. Many of them wrote articulate essays examining the pressures that had led to their incarceration. Several have since been released and entered college programs. While they don't have internet access, they have computers that allow them to search reference sources and write papers. Our Center for Prison Education has inspired our students on campus to work for social justice and against the hideous commercial forces to build more prisons that many of these comments mention. Those incarcerated had the odds stacked against them from birth; they were movingly grateful to the teachers who responded to them as fellow human beings. We all need more of this.

  193. This is the epitome of the "middle class guilt trip," par excellance. How sad. Education for criminals? Such a great idea. But children dying of starvation seems a tad worse. What are we to do, when we can't do it all? Perhaps, if we tried to educate our children from the get go, we wouldn't be struggling with this, but then we would have to pay more for education for ALL the children and that is where reality and the issue part ways with Mr. Cuomo, who seems to come up with more ways to privatize democracy than do the Republicans. The nut doesn't fall far from the tree, though, and just as his father invented a "fee" for everything, the current Cuomo has a "privateer" idea for everything. Shouldn't we try to focus our attention on the problems at hand, like getting people back to work? And do it the old fashioned way, like put some contracts out there for needed work? Nothing against criminals. Once we get going, we can focus better on their needs. Not now. Children first.

  194. It costs far less to send someone to Harvard than to keep them in prison. But our society has such a knee jerk reaction to law and order - I doubt if this will change.

    In TX huge prison terms are routinely passed out for simple posession - guess there is lots of oil money in the oil patch.

    Violent criminals must be incarserated. I was living in NYC when the three strikes and you are out was enacted. Now NY state has lots of prison space they are renting out to other states. Simply put those people were not allowed to breed and to create more of their kind.

    I think Rocky really did a brave social experiment - RIP Rocky and Megan should have called the emergency people immediately.

  195. I appreciate the importance of providing correction as part of the criminal justice system. And yes, I also believe that many who have been incarcerated are victims - of circumstances they were born into, of unequal application of prosecution, etc. But I have a very difficult time reconciling the idea that someone who follow the rules can graduate tens, even a hundred, thousand in debt while prisoners get a free education, room and board. Even if the conditions aren't desirable enough that anyone rational would opt to go this route to get their degree.

    Wouldn't it be better to focus on making education more widely, easily, affordably available to those who desire it and follow the law, than to those who've already broken the rules. Common senses says the returns will be significantly higher if we are educating law abiding citizens, than what you suggest is a good rehabilitation plan.

    I'm half way tempted to suggest a loan program for those in prison who want a college education, but even that seems to me a poor use of resources. Perhaps a jumpstart on a college education by allowing participation in MOOCs, and access to student loans after they've served their time if they have demonstrated they can successfully complete those courses.

  196. The most salient question in the article is "What is prison for?" Three answers are provided: punishment, public safety, and rehabilitation. Since punishment is a proven ineffective behavior-changer, numbers one and three are both pointless: people aren't being rehabilitated (as demonstrated in the article's statics about return to prison). That leaves public safety. Since most prisoners are released back to the public (again, per the article), what safety has been gained? The issue isn't whether or not to educate prisoners, but what to do with criminals that will breed fewer criminals. Education or lack of is besides the point. It's a lovely political talking point, but ultimately meaningless to the debate about reducing crime.

  197. The communities that most state inmates return to have lower levels of college attainment and higher levels of poverty. This is no accident. Mass incarceration resulted from the politically driven expression of America's indifference to the lives of poor Black and Hispanic peoples. There is ample evidence that persons of color and whites engage in similar levels of law breaking behavior and drug use, but are treated very differently by the justice system. American criminal justice policies act as a tax on communities of color. When large segments of a community are incarcerated it sends human capital and resources out of those communities to areas where whites predominate. The Governor's very modest college proposal was a small tax rebate to communities of color who's residents continue to be denied equal opportunity.