Albany – As a result of a long-term effort by New York State Senator Michael F. Nozzolio (R,C-Fayette), Chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee; the New York State Department of Correctional Services has implemented a new policy requiring inmates to obtain a general equivalency diploma (GED).
Citing the attainment of a high school diploma or GED in reducing recidivism among criminals, Senator Nozzolio has been a strong proponent of this measure and sponsored legislation in the Senate for the past three years to establish academic programs to prepare inmates to complete the GED.
“Research conducted by the State Department of Correctional Services, and a number of other correctional systems including the Federal system, clearly shows that inmates who attain a high school diploma or GED are least likely to commit crime again,” said Senator Nozzolio. “By requiring inmates to obtain a GED, we are helping to reduce recidivism while also giving inmates the education and tools they need to become contributing members of society upon their release from prison.”
The policy requires all inmates without a verified GED or High School diploma attend a Department of Correctional Services school program until he or she obtains a GED or is released. Approximately 1900 current inmates will be newly enrolled in the program, creating job opportunities for teachers and giving inmates the tools they will need when they leave prison.
Roger Benson, President of the NYS Public Employees Federation, AFL-CIO said, “I appreciate Senator Nozzolio’s progressive leadership and support on this important initiative. This is a similar policy to the one that exists in federal prisons and will help ensure the job security of teachers in New York State prisons."
Previously, Department policy only required inmates to participate in education programs if they functioned below an eighth grade level in reading or math. The new policy expands the Department’s mandatory education policy through the GED level.
There will be some exceptions to the policy that involve inmates with medical, emotional, or disciplinary problems. No inmate will be denied parole or be otherwise penalized for failure to meet the GED requirements if they have made a good faith effort to complete the requirements.
Nozzolio noted that a similar program instituted by the Missouri Department of Corrections resulted in over 2,000 inmates earning their GED in one year. After the program was initiated, the State’s recidivism rate dropped from 32 percent to 19 percent.
“This is a common sense rehabilitative measure which will help to further reduce crime in our State and ensures inmates are better prepared for life and work upon release. As Chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee, I am extremely pleased that the Department of Correctional Services will be implementing this important policy,” Nozzolio concluded.