New York State Senator Mark Grisanti launched a petition yesterday, Feb. 18, to show opposition to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to provide free college education to inmates in New York’s prisons. Within several hours of its launch, the “Say ‘No’ to Free College for Prisoners” petition garnered more than 1,300 signatures. The number of signatures rose to more that 3,200 by noon on Feb. 19. Grisanti represents New York’s 60th Senate District.
Grisanti says he launched the petition after he received numerous calls and messages from constituents regarding Cuomo’s initiative. Governor Cuomo announced Sunday, Feb. 16, he was seeking proposals from educational institutions to offer college-level courses at 10 New York prisons, one in each of the state’s regions. These classes would lead to associate and bachelor’s degrees.
According to Cuomo, it costs approximately $5,000 per inmate to provide one year of college classes. Prisoners that leave prison with a degree are less likely to return to prison, thereby reducing the incarcerated population. The state spends approximately $60,000 a year to keep a convict behind bars.
"I support rehabilitation and reduced recidivism,” says Grisanti, “but not on the taxpayer's dime when so many individuals and families in New York are struggling to meet the ever-rising costs of higher education." Grisanti has been working to restore state education grants for graduate students through New York’s Tuition Assistance Program. He believes this should take priority over providing free education in prisons.