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If any of you wonder why I will never raise my voice against funding Prisoner Education, even if the politician supporting it is someone I despise, here's one good reason:

I teach on the Bronx campus of Fordham University. Inside the campus, there are as many people selling and using drugs as there are outside the campus gates. Yet in the 40-plus years I have been teaching there, I have never heard of a drug raid on the Fordham campus, and never known a student arrested on campus for drugs. When I ask my students to name a New York State prison, they can usually name only two of the 60 --- Sing Sing and Attica

Now head outside the campus. If you talk to college-age young people in the neighborhood, almost everyone will know someone who is in, or has once been in prison, usually for drugs. Many of them can name 8 or 10 New York State prisons (Greenvale, Greenhaven, Coxsackie, etc.). And if you talk to young people who have been in prison for drugs, as I have on numerous occasions, most of them cannot get legal jobs. They are locked out of the legal economy permanently, exactly the way Michelle Alexander describes in her book, "The New Jim Crow."

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So when someone tells me, I can't support spending money to educate people who have broken the law, my answer is this:


At this moment in history, prison is not for "people who have broken the law." It is for poor people who have broken laws that rich people are almost never jailed for. I support educating them so that when the leave prison, they have a chance of supporting their families without breaking the law. Many do not have that opportunity now.

Mark Naison
With A Brooklyn Accent