Statement from Vera Institute of Justice President Nicholas Turner in Support of Governor Cuomo’s Plan to Offer College Courses in NY Prisons

There is substantial evidence that individuals working to rejoin their families and communities after release from prison are aided in those efforts by college education; the tools provided by even some college coursework can make the difference between becoming a self-sufficient, contributing member of society, or committing new crimes, creating new victims, and ending up back in prison at taxpayers' expense. Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal to create a program that would provide incarcerated New Yorkers with the opportunity to take college-level courses while in prison is part of a growing effort by both Republican and Democratic administrations in states to address the costly challenges of recidivism and reincarceration. Currently, some 40 percent of those released from New York prisons wind up back behind bars. Studies suggest, however, that there is a strong inverse correlation between recidivism and education: that graduating from college programs can decrease recidivism by approximately 72 percent. In addition to increasing employability and earnings, research shows that higher education attainment by parents could impact the education achievement and lifetime earnings of their children.

Offering men and women in prison the chance to study at a college level is a win-win for New York. It increases the job readiness of previously under-educated individuals, improves their employability and capacity to support their families, and thus improves the communities that 95 percent of incarcerated people will return to. By providing the means to a more secure life, it can also reduce new crime and new victims and help reduce the size of our overburdened and costly prison population. That’s why Vera is proud to partner with three states, all led by Republican governors, in our Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education Project. Pathways aims to expand access to higher education, along with supportive reentry services, for people in prison and those recently released in Michigan, New Jersey, and North Carolina. By validating what works through independent evaluation, Vera also hopes to spur national replication and long-term public investment. Governor Cuomo is on the right side of history with his initiative, and I am confident that with his support the program will enable formerly incarcerated individuals to give back to society.