Ritchie Launches Petition Opposing Free College For Inmates

Ritchie Launches Petition Opposing Free College For Inmates

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Jefferson Community College courses will be taught behind bars. The college has won a $665,000 state grant to educate prisoners.

JCC courses will be taught at Watertown, Gouverneur and Cape Vincent correctional facilities.

"We're going to offer basic general education courses," said Terrence Harris, JCC dean of continuing education.

Courses like math, English and sociology can lead to a college degree.

"I am excited about it," said Harris.

But the idea of more free college for more prison inmates, well, to some, there's no justice in that.

"To say that I was upset was probably a little bit of an understatement," said state Senator Patty Ritchie (R. - 48th District).

Senator Ritchie has launched an online petition against free college for inmates. She says too many law abiding citizens can't afford college themselves.

"People who have done something wrong are going to now be entitled to a free college education. This is something that outrages people," she said.

Harris suggests putting gut reactions aside and thinking like a taxpayer.

"So I say to people, well, how do we want them to come back - better criminals, or law abiding citizens," he said.

Senator Ritchie knows what her constituents are telling her: no.

"As soon as it was posted, people were stopping me at the gas station and when I was in the grocery store," she said.

Senator Ritchie says she is all for prisoners learning a trade behind bars, but a college degree is something else.

The first courses in prison are set to start in October.

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