Spin Cycle

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A reporter on Monday sought to pin down Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on whether he would give a free college education to John Lennon’s killer, but the Democrat wouldn’t let it be.

“Let’s talk about self interest,” Cuomo said, choosing not to directly answer the question about his proposal that’s drawn Republican criticism.

“If you are doing this just by the numbers, it’s cheaper,” he said in Buffalo, which is a political battleground for him this election year. “If you take a beat, and .?.?. let’s assume you don’t really care about the person in prison and you care about yourself as a taxpayer. On the numbers, it’s much less expensive.”

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 His proposal would provide about $5,000 a year in state funds to pay for college courses taken by qualified prisoners pursing associate or bachelor degrees. He notes college coursework can reduce recidivism for a prisoner to less than 5 percent, from the current average of about 40 percent.

“This is very expensive, very fast,” he said. “A 10-year stint, $60,000, 50 percent chance that he’s going to wind up going back. You’re paying millions and millions of dollars to institutionalize in a prison one person. And we can’t afford those rates anymore. We just can’t.”

Cuomo emphasized a new approach to the proposal he made a week ago to the caucus of African-American and Latino legislators. Cuomo’s proposal was strongly supported.

Since then, Republicans started at least two online petitions demanding state funds first be used instead to help law-abiding students to better afford college.

A public college education costs about $20,000 a year and the state is in the midst of a program to raise tuition annually.

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