Spin Cycle

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ALBANY - Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to fund college tuition for prisoners has prompted an online petition that tells taxpayers they would be footing the college bills for gun-wielding bank robbers. The petition drive is by the state Assembly’s Republican minority.

The website is titled “Kids Before Cons.” Under a photo of young, smiling students is the line: “Studied hard. Worked summer jobs. Saved. Took out loans. All to pay for expensive college educations …”

Then, along with a photo of hardened inmates in prison uniforms, the site states: “Stole a car. Robbed a bank. Shot a bystander. Got a free college education paid for by YOU.”

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The site also features T-shirts with fake school names, including “SUNY Rikers,” “Sing Sing University” and “State Pen,” in a font and style used by Penn State.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said his proposal would save taxpayers millions of dollars in prison costs, cut crime, reduce a 40 percent recidivism rate and turn felons into productive, taxpaying citizens.

Opponents note the rising cost of college education for law-abiding students. A year away at a public college in New York State costs families more than $20,000 a year, and tuition is rising.

Assembly Republican spokesman Michael Fraser said about 4,500 signatures were collected in the petition's first two days.

There was no immediate comment from Cuomo's office.