ALBANY, N.Y. – Governor Cuomo's plan to provide prisoners with a college education continues to draw heat, but one ex-convict said the program helped to turn his life around.
It is called a correctional facility but Cuomo said it does anything but correct inmates. In an effort to change that, he is proposing to once again use state money to fund college courses for inmates. It's a plan that remains controversial, but for a better idea of the potential the plan has, look no further than Anthony Cardenales.
Cardenales said he entered the Bard Prison Initiative back in 2008. He was in prison for a second time at that point, serving 17 years for manslaughter. Within five years he had his Bachelor's Degree and is now the vice president for a recycling company in Mount Vernon.
"I do not believe I would have been the vice president of this company and I absolutely am certain I wouldn't have been able to accomplish what I've accomplished," said Cardenales.
The Governor points out that the recidivism rate statewide is 40-percent but for those in the Bard Prison Initiative it was only 4-percent.
"It's just a really difficult, viscous cycle that only education, proper preparation and a commitment to change is going to eradicate," Cardenales.
Since 2007, the state has worked with colleges, including Bard and Cornell to offer privately funded degree programs at 22 prisons. This proposal would expand that initiative.
Rob Scott is the Executive Director of the Cornell Prison Education Program and spoke out in support.
"What we're trying to do is create the conditions under which those people that have been incarcerated for past convictions once released and 95 percent of those that are incarcerated are released that when they come home they can be constructive and contributing members of their community," said Scott.
Opposition though continues to mount and most of it surrounds the use of taxpayer money. Cuomo said it currently costs the state $60,000 a year to house a prisoner. These college classes would tack on another $5,000.