NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. — The Niagara County Legislature is now voicing its opposition to Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal to allow state prisoners to earn a college degree for free while serving time.
"Maybe it just would have been easier for them to rob a convenience store. Get some time in prison so they can get their education for free. They wouldn't have to get up early in the morning. They get a hot bed, three meals a day, all their medical care paid for, and an education, besides. Why not?" asked Legislature Vice Chairman Clyde Burmaster, R-Ransomville.
Cuomo's plan to offer inmates at 10 state prisons an education would leave taxpayers footing the bill. Burmaster calls the proposal absurd and Tuesday night, legislators unanimously passed a resolution opposing the governor's proposal, calling for it to be withdrawn.
"This is not the answer. Put that money towards curing crime in the first place," Burmaster said.
The opposition among lawmakers seems to be growing. Senator Mark Grisanti is also against the proposal and thousands have signed his online petition.
But not everyone is against it. In a statement, social welfare organization Hour Children says the initiative will help move the state forward. The statement reads in part:
“The governor’s recognition of the ‘moral imperative’ to provide a second chance for incarcerated individuals, while ensuring decreased recidivism, is one that Hour Children, Inc. supports.”
- Sister Tesa Fitzgerald
Brian Fischer, a former Department of Corrections and Community Supervision commissioner, also backs the plan, saying in a statement:
“I believe that prisons should be places of education, personal growth and commitment on the part of those that society often chooses to forget about. It is critical for our society to support higher education, both inside and outside the prison environment.”
Cuomo's proposal still needs to be approved by the state legislature.