Niagara Gazette

Local News

February 19, 2014

Effort to help inmates get degrees given failing grade by local lawmakers

Niagara Gazette — Gov. Cuomo’s plan to offer college degree programs to inmates in state prisons has sparked sharp reaction from an outraged vocal majority to a favorable minority that cites the benefits.

“I’m incensed at this proposal,” said state Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, pledging to exhaust all efforts to defeat the governor’s proposal. “For our state to demand that taxpayers foot the bill for the college education of prison inmates is a huge slap in the face to those families who are playing by the rules and struggling to make ends meet so they can have a brighter future.” 

Maziarz said Tuesday that many of his constituents in his district, which includes the City of Niagara Falls, have contacted his office to complain.

“The whole notion of rewarding bad behavior is completely backwards. It should be ‘do the crime, do the time,’ not ‘do the crime, earn a degree.’ It is simply beyond belief to give criminals  a competitive edge in the job market over law-abiding New Yorkers who forgo college because of the high costs,” he said.

The veteran Republican lawmaker’s remarks signal a rare break with Cuomo, a Democrat, with whom he has been closely allied on many issues.

Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, said he had launched an online petitions to gather public opposition to the proposal. “I have received numerous phone calls, emails and Facebook messages related to this initiative, and the overwhelming percentage of them is negative,” Grisanti said, “People in our state want their voices heard, I plan to show Gov. Cuomo and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Albany that there is significant opposition to utilizing the tax dollars of hardworking New Yorkers in such a manner.”

Grisanti said he supports rehabilitation and reduce 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.”

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