The state of New York has recently taken a significant step to improve public safety and build strong communities by investing in education throughout its prison system. After decades of research has proven the obvious impacts of education upon recidivism rates, Governor Cuomo has shown the resolve to spend money in a cost-effective manner that allows people to improve their possibilities after release.
“Giving men and women in prison the opportunity to earn a college degree costs our state less and benefits our society more,” said Governor Cuomo. “New York State currently spends $60,000 per year on every prisoner in our system, and those who leave have a 40 percent chance of ending up back behind bars. Existing programs show that providing a college education in our prisons is much cheaper for the state and delivers far better results. Someone who leaves prison with a college degree has a real shot at a second lease on life because their education gives them the opportunity to get a job and avoid falling back into a cycle of crime.”
Transcending Through Education Foundation is a member of the strong coalition (Education From The Inside Out Coalition) pushing to restore educational funding to the New York state prison system. As one of the largest and most influential state prisons, changes in New York carry the potential to set a new standard throughout the nation; something they did do, unfortunately, by passing the notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws.
TTEF provides scholarships for people in prison, and those recently transitioning out. Unfortunately, this is one of the few funding sources available to most people. One of our scholars, for example, would need to save his entire prison paycheck for a full year to afford a single class. He is pursuing a masters degree through correspondence courses.
In TTEF’s home state of Rhode Island, we have the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, the Community College of Rhode Island, Providence College, Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, Johnson & Wales University, Roger Williams University, and Salve Regina University. There is an incredible opportunity to bring their collective educational expertise, and resources, to the same table. If each offered just one class, and one professor, per semester a true degree program could exist.
Meanwhile, the RI Department of Corrections budget of $210 million provides $10 million for “institutionally based rehabilitation and population management” for approximately 3200 incarcerated men, women, and children. Granted, 83% of the DOC budget goes towards payroll, leaving relatively little to spread around for security measures, health care and education. However, it is clear that the best dollar spent will be on higher education.
The DOC purchased $284,000 in “University and College Services,” last year. This is a tenth of 1% of the overall budget (just 3% of the education and vocation services budget). TTEF is striving to make education more accessible and universal for those people working hard to change their lives.
The Rhode Island Dept. of Corrections budget for Fiscal Year 2015 can be viewed at: