There’s an old saying in public speaking courses – say it out loud to yourself first, you just might learn that it sounds ridiculous.
With that in mind: Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Queens) probably should have practiced this one in the mirror.
Aubry, upset over Governor Cuomo’s backtracking on a proposal to provide free education to prisoners, compared criticism of the program to slavery.
Via The Record:
The governor two years ago came to the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus church service and decided to announce that we, the state of New York, were going to reinvest in college in the state prisons in New York,” Aubry said. “And a hell storm blew him back 20 years into the hole.”
“He didn’t talk about it again, right, because upstate folks, union folks, the correction officers union, all of the reactionaries across the top of this state just hooted and hollered and screamed. (Joe) Six-pack got in charge, ‘No we can’t do that. I can’t send my kids. How can we send them? We need to punish, punish, punish, punish.’”
Aubry, a Queens Democrat who is one of three deputy speakers in the Assembly, then compared the prison system’s denial of college courses to inmates to slavery.
“You know what, there was a time in this country where if you were black and a slave it was against the law to teach you … those who would teach you were punished and those who were taught were punished. I wonder if this is not the same scenario.”
Aubry went on to insinuate that Americans are afraid “that these black and brown people” could gain “the skills and knowledge to actually be contributing parts of our society.”
Of course, had a Republican taken the time to address a Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus by announcing a plan to benefit prison inmates, or that only “black and brown people” would benefit from such a program, he/she would have immediately been branded a racist.
This wouldn’t be the first time New York has offered tuition assistance to convicts. Former governor George Pataki ended a program of state tuition assistance payments in 1995.
Vivian Nixon, advocate for the Inside Out Coalition and supporter of the program, took a shot at a recent spate of lawmaker arrests in New York, while pleading her case.
Nixon stated that now is a good time to revive the program, since “members of the Legislature might be feeling a little more vulnerable now that they might also being going to prison.”
Cuomo’s earlier efforts to provide a free college education for felons were met with a ‘Kids Before Cons‘ petition, and jokes that the best educational plan in New York would be to “commit a felony, do 5 years and come out with a degree.”