POLITICS

GOP Lawmaker Warns Educating Prisoners Could Lead To A 'Breaking Bad' Situation

02/19/2014 10:42 am ET | Updated Feb 19, 2014
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A New York State Assemblyman is warning against a bill that will make college courses available for inmates again, saying such rehabilitation efforts will lead to a "Breaking Bad" situation.

Jim Tedisco, an upstate Republican, issued a statement Tuesday with several references to the popular television series, in which a chemist-turned-teacher teams up with a high school dropout in the meth business.

"This is definitely ‘Breaking Bad’ by potentially turning a bunch of Jesse Pinkmans into Walter Whites -– all on the taxpayer’s dime,” Tedisco said. “Soon we will be the only state where honesty and hard work are trumped by being a bad criminal. Only in New York. When can New Yorkers wake up from this nightmare?”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had announced the plan on Sunday. It aims to reduce recidivism rates with the help of state funded college courses for prison inmates.

Tedisco's opposition resonated with several other lawmakers, including Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson).

"In a world of finite resources, where we are struggling to find funding for education for our kids, the last thing New York state should be funding is college tuition for convicts," Ball said in a statement.

Inmates were once eligible for college tuition assistance, but the program was halted by former Republican Gov. George Pataki.

A recent study published by RAND in 2013 found inmates who participated in such higher learning courses had as much as a 13 percent reduced risk of reincarceration. Furthermore, the study found investing in correctional education can be cost-effective for the state.

According to Cuomo, the initiative would actually bring down inmate costs. He pointed to state data showing New York already spending $60,000 on every individual inmate and $3.6 billion in total costs to operate prisons annually.

"However, it costs approximately $5,000 per year to provide one year of college education for one inmate," Cuomo said Sunday. "Current studies have shown that by earning college degrees, inmates are far less likely to return to prison."

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated Jim Tedisco was a congressman. This has since been corrected.

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