Statement from Vera Institute of Justice President Nicholas Turner in Support of Governor Cuomo’s and Manhattan DA Cy Vance’s Funding of College Courses in NY Prisons

New York, NY—Receiving higher education in prison is transformational, not only for the individuals who take college courses, but also for their families, the neighborhoods to which they return, and our society. College in prison is a proven and impactful public safety strategy, reducing recidivism by as much as 43 percent, and every dollar invested in prison-based education yields $4 to $5 of taxpayer savings in reduced incarceration costs. It also prepares people leaving our nation’s prisons every year to find employment in today’s economy: by 2020, 65 percent of job vacancies are expected to require some postsecondary education and training. 

The College-in-Prison Reentry Program funding announced today by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is a powerful endorsement of the potential for people in prison to return home and become valued members of their communities. This $7.3 million, five-year commitment that includes public and private colleges sets the stage for spreading this opportunity through New York’s prison system, and is a model for the nation. Through our Unlocking Potential: Pathways from Prison to Post-Secondary Education Program that operated for five years in Michigan, New Jersey, and North Carolina (15 colleges and universities partnering with 14 prisons in those states), and our national Expanding Access to Postsecondary Education in Prison initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Justice and supporting the Second Chance Pell effort involving 67 colleges partnering with over 100 prisons in 27 states, Vera can testify to the power of providing college in prison and during reentry. We applaud the Governor’s commitment to re-envisioning prison as not just a place of punishment, but as a place that upholds the human dignity of the people in it, and that is committed to helping those people succeed upon release.