NPR recently ran a story detailing New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent controversial efforts. The governor proposes that New York prisoners should be offered a college education free of charge—paid for by New York taxpayers. He feels that if college courses are offered to prisoners, there is a smaller chance those prisoners will return to a life of crime. But like any political debate, both supporters and opposition of the policy have points to make:
The Economic Issue
It costs about $60,000 a year to hold a prisoner in a cell. Once released, that prisoner has about 50% chance of returning to a cell due to future crimes, costing the government more money. A college education for each prisoner would cost an additional $5,000 a year, but has been proven to reduce prisoner retention rates. Therefore, giving prisoners a college education would increase initial costs but would save taxpayers a lot of money over time.
The Moral Issue
Those who oppose the policy, generally republicans, argue that giving a free college education – what they see as an earned privilege – to those who have been convicted of breaking the law would be wrong. Politicians who oppose this issue claim that the government should protect the rights of law-abiding citizens, rather than spending time (and money) sending criminals to school. In their opinion it wouldn’t be fair to current college students, many of whom are paying for their own education out of their own pocket. Why should a prison sentence be a ticket to a free education?
What do you think? Should prisoners be educated for free? Let us know in the comments!