New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has sparked controversy after proposing to fund a college program for state prisoners that has demonstrated success at reducing recidivism.
New York state prisons house around 55,000 prisoners. Recidivism is a major problem. Around 40 percent of prisoners who are released end up back inside prison walls. With one year’s incarceration costing about $60,000 per year in New York state prisons, that’s a huge drain on state resources.
In an attempt to address this problem, Attica prison has been running a college program in association with Bard College since 2001, with 275 inmates currently enrolled. Inmates can take individual classes or a full degree program, and the programs are conducted with the same thoroughness as those on campus.
The success of the Bard Prison Initiative speaks for itself. To date, over 500 inmates have taken classes, and 250 have graduated with degrees. These successes include many who could never have expected to achieve academic success in their home environment. Ex-students of the program have gone on to successful jobs and careers, and even to attend graduate schools, including Columbia University and Yale.
Perhaps more impressively, the rate of re-incarceration for those who have taken classes has fallen ten-fold to just 4 percent, whilst for those who graduated with degrees that rate falls even further to 2.5 percent