CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. -- In upstate communities, local leaders have gathered more than 5,000 signatures against the governor's plan to spend $5,000 per inmate to provide college education classes at 10 upstate prisons.
Assemblyman Jim Tedisco represents part of Saratoga County. He says his office has been flooded with complaints from constituents.
"They are calling, they are mailing, the are e-mailing, they are faxing, they are coming to our offices. In markets they talk to me about it and say, look, these are the two hurdles my son or daughter needs to overcome, they got to pay for it and they got to compete to get into it," Tedisco said.
Cuomo made the announcement last week at the annual Black and Latino Caucus weekend in Albany. It was well received by the attendees, but it has received a very different reception in other parts of the state. In Buffalo, the governor was asked Monday what he would say to John Lennon's widow if his killer wanted access to educational programs in prison.
"Let's put aside, some people would say wouldn't it be nice -- forget nice. Let's talk about a self-interest. You pay $60,000 a year for a prison cell. You put a guy away for 10 years that's $600,000," Cuomo said.
The governor says recidivism rates are currently around 40 percent. But research shows that with educational opportunities that rate can drop below 5 percent.
"If you were just doing this on the numbers, as a conservative, and you said you wanted to save money. This is a great investment to save tax dollars," Cuomo said last week.
"The key is not to stop recidivism, the key is to stop people from being criminals to begin with. Give every bit of that money -- $5,000 -- for every student to go to college. They won't become criminals. You won't have to protect against recidivism," Tedisco said.
Even downstate Republicans and some upstate Democrats have been critical of the plan.
"Why should we reward bad behavior when there are plenty of people in public higher education institutions like CUNY and SUNY who did face a rise in tuition recently," said Assemblyman Joe Borelli, R - Staten Island.
Cuomo has not given a price tag for the program. We had expected to see additional cash in the 30-day budget amendments, but there was no mention which means it will likely be negotiated as part of the entire budget due April 1.