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Prisons, Voting, & College for Convicts

Feb 23, 2014|

Canisius Prof. Michael Haselswerdt, Former Sheriff/NYS Sen. Pat Gallivan & Artvoice's Geoff Kelly

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It's time to talk politics it's hard line. And on news radio nine. And the water had a week it is to talk politics we're going to look at some criminal justice issues this was the week where Governor Cuomo. Came out with the idea of college tuition for convicts in about ten state prisons. It was roundly rebuked by some of the Republicans many of whom are running for election. Before the next two hours are done we are going to talk about those elections in the state legislature. We're going to talk about governor Cuomo's prisons convicts college plan. We'll kick that around with former county sheriff and Parole Board members who is now a member of the New York State Senate Patrick element joins us. And about fifteen minutes or so. But in the meantime there's a related issue that's been bubbling up for a while now to. On the federal level there's been a lot of talk about criminal justice issues. President Obama and more more importantly I guess his attorney general Eric Holder have been talking about making criminal justice issues race. All of this crime and punishment stuff. A major part of the president's second term. And in the past week or so. The attorney general Eric Holder came out with a plan pushing for more states to lift their ban on felons voting. One of the national researchers who's done an awful lot on this topic. Matter fact if he could Google right now you could Google phone voting and chances are the name of one in the name to a pop up. Is tenacious college's political science professor Michael -- -- And when a guy like that is in this town we're talking this issue we've got to bring a month so Michael thanks for joining us this morning. Report. First vote if you could describe just lately the ground work force a little bit describe. What the attorney general is proposing. And put that in the context of how many states allow felons to vote how many don't because he's he's pressing in on ten particular states. What is it in New York right now from convicted of felony. Do I lose my voting rights forever. No you don't. And once you're done with your sentence. In -- news. It's not what you don't -- the parole that's part of it. Aren't you can. Re register to vote. And that's still lose it -- And yet that's not the case in these ten states that holder is talking about nationwide explain. Yeah they're being it -- every state has that the law opposition. Constitution gives states the rights to the general elections. In so every state has. You know their own their own take on. I'm being you can vote for prison. Vermont you can -- to present -- as long as you haven't been convicted of pretty of electoral fraud. On speaker murder somebody. You you know if you commit electoral fraud -- but everybody else -- you know various restrictions on it. Yeah and in New York in certain middle of the pack with that the states that all are talking about being you. Four YE except most states have some sort of appeal process. Where the governor can. Great clemency in this and so the so that. On an individual basis. So expelled him or so felons can get their. They're voting rights back but it's a very arduous process had been obviously argues very expensive. Holder when he first raised the idea kind of cast it in there and a racial justice cents. The idea that it's it's discriminating against predominantly black prison populations in the states that do it do you agree. Or gesture maybe it's it's really clear editor's note nobody doubts that that's the back of it you know whether. Nor are you -- that intentional or art is different interpretation but. Clearly when your you know when you have disenfranchised. You know 20%. City of the of the black male population. You know that's that's a big deal compared true. You know you know -- fired 6% re -- four occasions so. It is an issue. It you know what our are you interpreted the Warburg. And I'll talk about your research at one point I know you surveyed. Felons in Erie county jails and prisons in New York State. What did you find. Why -- -- that's an important part like to me more. Well it is it regretted this in the first place was nobody called me opposite you know what he would you know what about this stuff and I didn't. Minority about it sort start looking around. In surveys show. That believe anywhere from 25% -- congressional elections the 35%. In. Presidential elections. Smoke you have excellent you know article fellas -- or expose everyone that -- -- at great. And I thought that seemed really hot. I know. Correct spelling and -- you know prepared people that civic duty you'd hire younger. List of characteristics. And what about the so what I it was got I got so. A list of felons and have been released. Who were eligible to -- in rural or re register. And I got voting. So in Erie county and Cambodia records effort can you know they'll match goes to lists. And you know what I found was that the voting rate was at about quarter 5%. Along a look -- population so. You know it it's a lot lower than. You know -- be -- -- it in his surveys. You don't think people in -- told you what you wanna hear a substantial president. In people -- intend to do things that they are not that they don't actually do but my stuff was you know sort actual. Behaviors. And that suggested that it's quite a bit lower and what certainly showed. And in the process your stuff then shows that all of these arguments about certain population suddenly tipping elections. Wouldn't necessarily be the case because they don't vote in significant enough numbers to tip elections. That's what I would argue I would say -- you can imagine. So primary elections probably. You know -- city intercity. Neighborhoods that have. Large. Populations. That have been incarcerated. Maybe in the situation -- -- -- -- -- primary. It -- matter if it's these folks voted. But otherwise. It's so it's it's not likely and the thing is they you know there's just -- There's there it goes to the other issue of this. You know college tuition and things like Betemit. It's a population that doesn't have a whole lot of supporters. -- and I think that we don't. We at least when I did this research four or five years ago. We were doing real good job of trying to educate. Those people who were getting out of prison. And it back into the population as to their rights. There's an awful lot of there's a lot of this information. Where people think they've lost irritable forever. It and you know people that do voter registration drives for campaign inspired this all the time. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- And it's just not is that's not the case but they -- we don't try to. You know make that part of their reentry. That you know that the parole people haven't at least Tibet to work. Making people's seat as they were on -- when they were out of it. They could potentially vote. So you could probably do a little time with that. In terms -- redevelopment. But again I don't think he could do too much of -- and I don't think these. Interest and to be either. So what did you see that would indicate Erie county is not unique and we use your research and extrapolate nationwide. Yeah you know I I actually then got some. I I did this -- study on that the state -- I didn't publish it but it's. But I have been numbers. And it's actually for New York State. A little bit lower than it was in Erie county. You know so I don't know quite I don't know quite. Wanna say that felons in New Yorkers seem it is this so -- so I just I would feel. Comfortably comfortable -- bad but but I I suspect they. You know I mean as a researcher it would. Personally I think they probably are all right did not you know -- advantage -- -- look what larger look at. And then as a let let's take off for researcher had -- put -- not that the two are different. Let's take up the researcher had been put on the political science professor had were talking with Michael -- is worked from -- college. Tell me then how what you've learned about felon voting applies to the current discussion. Governor Cuomo proposing ten different prisons where he would make tuition and classes college education available to prisoners. Well -- created that would be on the basis certainly the American -- felons that would. Be able to vote for sort of things so. So this is the population making it a decision as to. You know the cost effectiveness of a program like that permeated it. Is it cheaper to do that or is it cheaper you know -- if it cuts down on recidivism. Are you saving money by. -- route or. You know is it is it just opened here -- -- for free -- You know being in people say well we shouldn't do that that I have to pay -- or are. So you know it -- it goes through this whole thing -- you know it's how do we re integrate these people. Into the society and and to what extent you know it comes to voting they wanna be reintegrated. And your putting forward the your putting the -- that the cost effect are you report that says. On the reintegration side it helps of we have them vote and hopefully have a college educated. -- -- -- -- -- it's due to meet that that's probably indicates. All of it's it's awfully expensive there are people in prison. -- it and it'd be you know college tuition seemed pretty expensive to -- it. It's not as expensive as it is that so. You know I think that. You know that's the calculation people look at it but the. I I wanna put in an approval that let you go -- the second I don't know he only signed on for a brief appearance here we'll put it in a political context forming. Are are both sides to some degree to some degree everything else you said notwithstanding. Using those Republicans perhaps going against Governor Cuomo because it's nice red meat in an election year. At the same time on the federal level looking at the felon voting issue. President Obama talking a little bit about legacy and civil rights and crime and justice issues -- put it in that context for me. Don't worry that you know I think you -- out and I think that. You know locally it's this felons are are easy target. And you know so that they don't have much of supporting constituency. To the extent that they would vote democratic. Democrats don't want to you know -- out for a man. And you know and obviously Republicans. You know -- up -- opportunity here. Too because. That they assume that if you expand. You know if you expand their constituencies. There -- benefit from. So the local level I think you you have it just just right. Why do research suggests that you know you should probably just try to do whatever you think is the right thing with this thing because they are gonna matter. In terms of you know a race between democratic republic. Of you know it -- -- the national -- -- -- a racial -- and you know and I think. You know I mean it's hard to see Obama is really. The rhetorical weight behind this certain you know we need you to systems go for -- to think back. You know I mean I think that it is an issue -- -- if he wants it to take it on a adults the other to be a bad thing. All right professor thanks so much for your time this morning. That's professor Michael Hayes wheels were Rick Leach is college game he's done some. Local and state wide research about felons voting. And a putting it in context force of all this discussion lately about Governor Cuomo and his plan to have college tuition for prisoners. Let's bring in another expert who also happens to be a legislator. Former Erie county sheriff pat Galvin of course knows a little bit about criminal justice he also served for awhile before he was a state senator on the New York State Parole Board. He is a Republican from alma and joins us on the line -- thanks for joining us senator. -- What are your thoughts here I would think that you're someone as I said familiar with the criminal justice system on enough that. If you oppose the governor -- you could put forth a really good argument against the whole idea that it saves on recidivism. Explained. Well there's there's the dead is clear. They had them education is something that helps to reduce recidivism and -- various studies. The governor has been quoting studies in as he puts this forward. It is putting it forward this seems to me on the premise that long term this will help reduce recidivism fewer people returning to prison. And they've costs. Up for the taxpayer. And that's the part that you don't necessarily disagree with. No wait -- it makes sense -- that they get is clear that as one of the ways to help reduce recidivism. Would problematic at this time is that tremendous public outcry that are pointing out many different things first. You look at families struggling. You look at people many people called in the office talking about how they tens of thousands of dollars of student loans held in the top time. Putting their own children through college we look at the challenges. The high cost of government property taxes. Cuts in funding to education that it's still hasn't caught up to levels from 2008. 2009. Last year we -- a tremendous cuts. To that the services being provided for developmentally disabled were closing mental health facilities. There are so many challenges. You don't challenges that we face right now and I think it becomes a matter of determining their priorities so. In and of itself from two of them -- complete vacuum and look -- -- should -- be providing these programs. It doesn't make sense but right now we face some challenges. Seems to me we should be taking and some of these other challenges we have been providing. The free college tuition to inmates at greater cost the taxpayer. So you're putting -- squarely in the context of the budget battles come in Albany. Well I haven't seen the governor's thirty day at the governor's. This thirty -- budget amendments yet but I think his plan was to put this proposal in this thirty day amendments. If we're talking about spending. State taxpayer dollars as we go through that the budget process and adopted by April 1 this is the time to discuss. But. It it's just been incredible. Negative reaction to this proposal. We are getting the calls and tore off those emails. Letters. FaceBook. Tweets would it would Everett might be it is close to. Nine to ten to one in -- position. Is safe. Been reading the various -- -- across -- from across the state it seems it's very similar but of the governor as he points. To the success in reducing recidivism. By providing education for -- and that's one of the things that can do it. But just that this time it seems to me that we have other priorities and we look at this struggles. We look at recent cuts. -- was made available for those those were pursuing higher degrees it's no longer available. It's not available to many many families many in recent struggles and it's hard for people to reconcile. I have to pay an analog biding citizen how on earth is it fair that I pay for a convicted criminal. You are Republican in the senate they have a nominal majority or at least -- a functioning coalition majority there. Talk about the legislature as a whole though -- do you see the opposition to this being broad based enough that that some Democrats peel away. From what would be their traditional position. I guess bottom line where I'm really asking is where does this go from here what do you see happening. Well we we go back to Albany. This week. And I imagine that this will be one of the things that's very much talked about people put forward their positions and if they're properly represented their constituents they will. Speaking up for or against this proposal but I think right now it is does seem to it be because of the negative reaction across the state. I would think of this proposal it is. The faces long odds. But the governor wants to put this forward wants to talk about it we're obligated to talk about it what takes place in him you don't know one of the thoughts that I had. -- when we look at things that help to reduce recidivism. You know -- of course has to be motivated as many programs that are available. Within prison right now whether there but there are some educational programs. There vocational programs it's -- -- to take advantage of these programs and a and the individual has to be motivated to do better. But if the governor's serious about talking about this perhaps we can. We can't talk about it but treat the other -- like lake and law abiding citizens. In the sense that we have to pay for college education. -- Explore the possibility of making college education available to be inmates -- the -- to pay for. Ian -- just to pay it back. Over time just like many of our children have to pay in the formal -- I don't think it just automatically goes away because there are people that don't like them. We have to talk about like adults what it means for public policy but I think at this time. We should be focused. The other priority as we look at the challenges K through twelve. Schools have. We look at school boards are challenged with the tax -- And there are challenged with cuts in funding. We look at the closing of mental health facilities right here we are working to try to keep the west Seneca children's psychiatric center open. And when we look at the reduce services to developmentally disabled community across the state millions of dollars. In funding cuts and I think that those are the things that. We we place them in order rank them 12 and I think. Many of these other things should be calm before the discussion. About providing free education for him. Got -- senator Galvin thanks for your time's going by to join us especially I know you're. You're out of town I guess your son's basketball tournament how's he doing. Well they can that they get a challenging -- We we do enjoy what we we do when joy or your children's activities that they risk. Thanks for joining me this morning that state senator Patrick Galvin of course in your county former Erie county sheriff. Former member of the state Parole Board we have late for our break and take. College for convicts the proposal that was put forth by Governor Cuomo a pilot project at ten prison statewide to give college courses to. Criminals while they're in jail. The argument there and there's a lot of national studies the supporters say that it would cut down on recidivism. At the same time though it has been opposed vehemently by many Republicans. Many of them. Are are saying it's just something we can't afford right now. And leading the charge on a lot of that early on was state senator mark resigned TO a Republican in a very democratic district. A guy that has been criticized in the past for being perhaps. A little too liberal now coming out without a fairly conservative position at least on this. I wanna put in the context of politics and this is where we bring in our voices Jeff Kelly. Jeff is more of my favorites he's been on the show a couple of times before the politics coverage and our voice is pretty strong. And a part of the reason Jeff apart from that that I wanted to have you on. If you had some interest in commentary this week about resigned these very public opposition to this measure thanks for being here talk a little bit about what you grow. What is my pleasure island bit of the thing about this proposal of Cuomo's -- that it put. That the Democrats. Group. Grew by alert to supporters of the program are by and large Democrat that put them in a tricky position because of the arguments against are. Our emotional and resolutely emotional if you know to me and structure that that's really tricky. For Democrats countered because the argument that -- -- Is that you know good potentially good to have Bard College started that it's been decided Goran is an accurate. And college degrees earned in prison -- reduces the likelihood of recidivism by it and pulled. Bennett and his money over the long term potential I didn't and if it doesn't have it doesn't it's a failure Williams and that being. And you know -- market army has put himself in the position. Where he can make that emotionally resonant argument. Against something that is an and it's hard to countered that what you -- -- with that sort of compact and numbers. Which don't know -- -- quite as well. And at the same time you also put forth the argument that if if if he's looking at it is from an economic point of view that this is just not worth that this is not money that we should be spending. Well then where was he on some other issues that you say he could have come out in favor of supporting Sunni. Yeah exactly him that that is that actually came from other comment on the bottom of around the back boats and and -- but it also yeah I thought that was your writing to it it was good -- it is in my in my column for sure and and what what this comment -- settlers you know. Why are you jumping on this now you're not where were you when they're wearing Sunni went to raise tuition where have you been about advocating for. Better situation occurred tuition help or or needy students outside a prison in recent years what -- Working harder on responsible spending within any system in this person and it toward the new football center at UB which cost like 25 million dollars and one could argue it's not. Really you know part of the educational mission but the school. Greta is you're sort of suggesting. You need something. That will rally Republicans -- which is British upcoming because. You know he is going to be targeted on the right. From the right -- this effect look again and is vote to -- -- sex marriage. He is going to face some sort of parliament from Democratic Party party as well it is certain if he didn't -- tricky position. And there is talk of possibly. Having a Republican challenger Kevin Harvick former host this program county legislator professor at -- -- Has talked about maybe challenging was on -- in the Republican primary. Two to bring out the more conservative side of the vote and Rus Thompson even though what was -- gotten independent backing right now. Rus Thompson the Tea Party advocate has talked about challenge him and an independence primary perhaps so he suddenly finds himself. In an ice here. Independence party is so while the wheel it around here a couple of local independence -- at -- national book there's an independence party which it -- You that there endorsement that the that the local. There's -- sort of local factions independence party which were sent at the count and and we can have our own candidate tourists and who -- -- Do you think the issue is being taken up elsewhere on the campaign trail beyond the it was on -- race. Because of leading question because of the make -- of the state senate. Yeah certainly absolutely. There's a question I mean I mean there are a lot of things -- about it if you -- every two years now right these big and shall sit on the bank. So. -- -- every sort of potential wedge issue like this -- on. Into something much bigger than there is remembered as a pilot program at imprisoned it's not. It's -- and we could reform the big changes everything in life. If for putting in the context of politics let's ask then why Governor Cuomo is putting it forth. Earlier this week we have Bruce Bruschi on the air he's a professor of buffalo state college he says where the rubber hits the road in the colleges this doesn't make sense he'd be pulling. Professors out maybe sending them to prisons or or even the prisoners to the colleges he looked at -- financially and said he doesn't seem to think there's a great argument for there. But he also looked at a politically and scratched his head and said. He doesn't understand. Why Governor Cuomo will be putting this forth why do you think he's -- Well there are those who don't you know Bhutto is sort of answer that Cuomo those looking to presidential politics. And for presidential politics when you could have big term panic. There have been dramatic initiatives that appeal to the left leaning side of the Democratic Party that. You -- -- for your appeal to the primary. Consider that there and you know almost everything he does is look at it now. Do you really think that that he's still doing that all or is the commercialism I've always heard. Hillary's to lose if she do if she wants therefore he's kind of out of that is he still making that kind of calculation. Churkin euros prepared for its. There have been you know his if you want to be ready the and if Hillary should decide for whatever reason not to run -- capable and Korea of course you I mean you're you're a politician like Andrew Cuomo envisioned for five or six. That might and so -- So so to your mind -- hasn't ruled that out. No I don't think I'll -- of service situation. But you know if you'll react to order situation. All right Jeff tell them. Jeff Kelly is with us from our -- after the break we'll look at some of the other interesting things that have emerged on the campaign trail and.