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Community college in N.Y. starting education program at county jail

“I’m one of the first to say we need to hold people accountable to their crimes, but we need to offer programs so that we don’t see them in correctional facilities again,” the sheriff said

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General education courses lasting five to seven weeks would be taught at the jail.

Niagara County Sheriff

By Rob Creenan
Niagara Gazette

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Niagara County Community College plans on starting an education program for inmates at the Niagara County jail this summer.

General education courses lasting five to seven weeks would be taught at the jail. The main requirement, for inmates, is that they must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Orleans-Niagara BOCES would administer the placement exams to determine whether inmates are ready for the courses. Course credits would be transferable to other colleges upon the inmate’s release.

Chief Jail Administrator Anthony Suess said NCCC reached out to the Sheriff’s Office about the program, expressing belief that it would benefit the incarcerated population. He did not say how many inmates registered to take classes.

“The goal of a correction facility is to make individuals better than when they came in,” Suess said.

Lydia Ulatowksi, NCCC vice president for academic affairs, said an adjunct professor from the college agreed to teach the courses.

Sheriff Michael Filicetti said his office is still working on the technical details so the courses can be offered.

“I’m one of the first to say we need to hold people accountable to their crimes, but we need to offer programs so that we don’t see them in correctional facilities again,” Filicetti said.

Incarcerated students would be eligible for federal Pell grants and other tuition assistance programs, and they can pay for the courses through their commissary funds, which are used to provide programming to benefit inmates. Various NCCC student fees would be waived for the inmates, per the college Board of Trustees’ approval given this month.

A 2018 study reported in the Journal of Experimental Criminology showed that educational programs in prisons and jails reduce recidivism among the students by 28% and increase their chances of employment by 12%.

Of New York State’s 44 prisons, 36 offer education programs, including Albion, Attica, Wende, Wyoming and Collins correctional facilities in Western New York. Area colleges including the University of Buffalo, Erie Community College, Genesee Community College and Jamestown Community College are involved with educating inmates in those facilities.

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