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Raising Wages for Inmates Will Raise Eyebrows Across N.Y.

By Brian Kolb

Date:

Albany’s pro-criminal crowd is at it again. A bill introduced by Democrats in the Assembly and Senate would give inmates in state prisons a healthy pay raise for work they do behind bars. The proposal triples the minimum wage for prisoners, and naturally, New York taxpayers are expected to pay the bill.

A component of the state prison system is an industrial division called “Corcraft,” where inmates produce a wide variety of products, such as office furniture, apparel, and other items. The overarching goal of the program is for inmates to develop skills and reinforce work ethic to prepare them for eventual release.

But the proposed prisoner pay raise is simply the latest in a growing list of misguided priorities coming from Albany. Over the past two years, proposals directed at helping rapists, murderers, and violent abusers have been abundant and out-of-touch. The initiatives and actions from Albany’s pro-criminal crowd have been nothing short of offensive. Consider that recently New York State has: 

• Granted parole to a pair of cop-killers;

• Started a program to give computer tablets to every inmate;

• Launched a program to provide tuition-free college to prisoners; and

• Issued unilateral pardons to parolees, restoring voting privileges prior to the end of their sentencing requirements.

At what point will the needs of over-taxed, law-abiding New Yorkers become the priority?

Putting priorities in their proper place 

The prisoner pay-hike recommendation comes as the governor and state comptroller have issued warnings that the state is facing a dangerous $2.3 billion budget hole. In addition, the governor’s executive budget proposal calls for $4.1 billion in new taxes. Needless to say, there’s a long list of items that require our immediate attention before paying for additional accommodations to incarcerated felons. For example: 

• Direct-care professionals — the men and women who provide life-saving care for those with disabilities, our most vulnerable population — have been denied a wage increase by the governor’s budget;

• Towns and villages across the state face funding cuts to their budgets (which are already in place, threatening the services and programs they can provide to residents); and

• Eligibility for the state’s college tuition assistance program (TAP) hasn’t been expanded in nine years. The minimum grant award given to students receiving TAP hasn’t been increased since 2000.

In policy and principle, this is a poorly-timed insult to law-abiding citizens facing real financial hardships, and to the victims whose lives have been turned upside-down by criminal acts.         

Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C–Canandaigua), a former small-business owner, is the New York Assembly Minority Leader and represents the 131st Assembly District, which encompasses all of Ontario County and parts of Seneca County. Contact him at kolbb@nyassembly.gov

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