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Pols Give Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Prison College Plan Failing Marks

FILE -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo (credit: Getty Images)

FILE — Gov. Andrew Cuomo (credit: Getty Images)

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ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Several state senators are attacking Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to fund more college classes in New York prisons. One launched an online petition against it.

The program would offer associate’s and bachelor’s degree education at 10 prisons, which Cuomo says will reduce the likelihood of inmates returning to crime. He proposes spending about $5,000 a year for an inmate’s education.

Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican, said the petition mounted on his website Tuesday follows many negative calls, emails and Facebook messages about the proposal unveiled Saturday by Cuomo at the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus.

“I support rehabilitation and reduced recidivism, but not on the taxpayer’s dime when so many individuals and families in New York are struggling to meet the ever-rising costs of higher education,” Grisanti said in a news release.

Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos, of Rockville Centre, said he, too, doesn’t believe taxpayers should provide prisoners with free college tuition while middle-class families struggle to pay for their children’s education.

In announcing his proposal Sunday, Cuomo said New York currently spends $60,000 per year on each prisoner and those who leave have a 40 percent chance of returning.

“Giving men and women in prison the opportunity to earn a college degree costs our state less and benefits our society more,” Cuomo said in a news release.

Since 2007, the state Department of Corrections has partnered with colleges including Cornell University and Bard College to offer privately funded degree programs at 22 prisons. The new program would expand on that.

Anthony Cardenales, who served 16 years for homicide and then earned his bachelor’s degree in the privately funded Bard Behind Bars program, told WCBS 880 that he agreed offering the program to inmates would give them a better chance of succeeding once they are released.

Cardenales is now vice president of administration at Hugo Neu Recycling in Mount Vernon.

“The college experience in prison really just enables the prison an opportunity to educate themselves — so that upon release they have a viable change in competing with those who are already out here fighting for the very limited jobs that are available,” he said Sunday.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)