A new initiative is looking to get to the root of the problem when it comes to the state’s criminal justice system — putting an end to a never-ending cycle of despair.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday the “Right Priorities” initiative, a proposal to invest in a seven-point plan to stop young people from entering the prison system but also help those already in it.
“At one point one state has to stand up and say we have to try a different way,” Cuomo said. “At one point we have to stop the cycle.”
The first step of the plan starts with schools, primarily “failing public schools” in which students are not only receiving below-standard education but also aren’t offered additional services. Cuomo plans to create what he calls “community schools” where students can get the support they would in a community along with a better education.
The following step is helping people find jobs. “Give them the pride and respect, the dignity of earning their own bread,” the governor said. To help push this forward, Cuomo looks to allocate $50 million to a current jobs program for at-risk youth.
When individuals find themselves in a jam, the initiative plans to investment in alternatives to incarceration — such as drug treatments or parole.
If someone is already in the prison system, the governor proposes to set forward a plan to teach skills or provide education to inmates.
According to The New York Times, Cuomo first proposed the idea of college courses for inmates in 2014 but the idea was shot down — citing that taxpayers shouldn’t pay for a program for convicted felons.
However, for the current proposal, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is expected to allocate about $7 million to fund the college course through SUNY and CUNY and an additional $7 million will come from private funding.
“You can tell me no, I’m accustomed to it,” Cuomo said on Sunday. “I just find another way to get to it.”
The final three steps include protecting younger individuals from entering state prisons with raising the age of criminal liability; reinvesting in reentry programs, to assist previously incarcerated people transition back into their communities; and finally making some juvenile criminal records — involving non-violent felonies — no longer available during background checks.
Cuomo added that he is aware those opposed to the plan will point to extra spending being the issue but he said that in the end, investing to prevent individuals from entering jail will be cheaper than paying to keep them in the jail system.
According to the governor, it costs about $50,000 per year to keep a person in jail in New York State.
“At the end of the day, successes is cheaper than failure,” Cuomo said. “We are talking about relatively small investments early on to keep us from spending large amounts once the problem has manifested.”