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Gov. Andrew Cuomo Proposes Turning Prisons Into College Campuses

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing to provide college classes in New York prisons, saying a college degree will reduce the likelihood an inmate will return to a life of crime when released.

The program will offer associate and bachelor degree education at 10 prisons, one in each region of the state.

Cuomo announced the program at a church service for the New York Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators conference Sunday morning alongside New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.

According to a Cuomo news release, New York currently spends $60,000 per year on each prisoner, and it will cost approximately $5,000 per year to educate an inmate. It did not specify the cost of the overall program.

"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 the release. "New York State currently spends $60,000 per year on every prisoner in our system, and those who leave have a 40 percent chance of ending up back behind bars. Existing programs show that providing a college education in our prisons is much cheaper for the state and delivers far better results."

The state will issue a Request for Proposal from qualified educational associations in March. Degrees would take generally 2 1/2 to three years to obtain.

Since 2007, the state Department of Corrections has partnered with colleges including Cornell University and Bard to offer privately funded degree programs at 22 prisons.

The new program will expand on that.

"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," Anthony Cardenales, who served 17 years for homicide and then earned his bachelor's degree in a privately funded Bard Behind Bars program, told WCBS 880.

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