Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo outlined a proposal Sunday to steer young people away from crime and incarceration and keep those who get in trouble from becoming repeat offenders.
The plan includes early-intervention investments such as $100 million for schools that offer preventive programs and $50 million for a youth job placement program to nearly double its capacity to 22,000.
“We have to stop this cycle,” the Democratic governor said to a receptive audience at Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem. “This country puts more people in prison than any industrialized nation on this Earth.”
The rates of incarceration disproportionately affect young black and Hispanic men, Cuomo said, previewing the “Right Priorities” initiative to be announced as part of his State of the State speech on Wednesday.
Doing more to keep people out of prison in the first place, teaching them skills behind bars if they do end up there and helping them transition successfully upon release is “an issue of the heart as much as an issue of the head,” he told reporters afterward. “It’s wrong to put people in cages, like animals, and waste young lives.”
Cuomo called for college-level education programs at state prisons to ensure the facilities are “about rehabilitation” and for restricting public access to state criminal records for conditionally pardoned 16- and 17-year-olds. He continued to push to “raise the age” of criminal responsibility to 18 from 16.
“It is less expensive to do things right in the first place,” he said. “That is not to mention the human cost.”
Cuomo had more than a dozen local, state and federal elected officials standing with him, including Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan), state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan) and City Comptroller Scott Stringer. Mayor Bill de Blasio was not among them.
Rangel said the governor’s plan would help people become “what God wanted them to be: a productive human being.”