A commission tasked with studying education services offered in the corrections system and make recommendations on how to improve the learning opportunities will likely miss the statutory deadline for completing its work.
Legislation signed into law in November 2021 established the commission, which then had 10 months to submit a report on prison education – giving it a due date of early September. As of early August, none of the legislative appointments had been made to the commission and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office did not respond to questions about their appointments or the status of the commission.
When she signed the legislation, the governor – who has three of nine appointments to the commission – released a statement saying, “By embarking on a detailed study of how we can improve education for those who are incarcerated, we will be able to identify and implement the programs and resources necessary for ensuring those who are reentering society have the best shot at success. This not only benefits the individual and their families, but the community at large as well.”
A spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie – who has two of nine appointments – said on Aug. 9 that they were “in the process” of naming appointments. A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins – who has two of nine appointments – said on Aug. 9 that their appointments should be official in a couple days.
It’s not unusual for panels created in state law, with the power to study an issue and make recommendations, to be months, if not years, behind schedule. For example, a state task force on child poverty was supposed to hold its first meeting by May 2022 and has yet to schedule their first gathering. It’s worth noting that state lawmakers and the governor have a habit of retroactively breathing new life into expired panels.
While the prison education commission appears to be off to a slow start, SUNY is getting the ball rolling on efforts to expand access to higher education classes to New Yorker behind bars. Additionally, state tuition assistance for incarcerated New Yorkers is supposed to be accessible this fall for the first time in more than two decades.