NEW YORK – Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino said he would transform some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they could work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training and take lessons in “personal hygiene.”
Paladino, a wealthy Buffalo real estate developer popular with many tea party activists, isn’t saying the state should jail poor people: The program would be voluntary.
But the suggestion that poor families would be better off in remote institutions, rather than among friends and family in their own neighborhoods, struck some anti-poverty activists as insulting.
Paladino is competing for the Republican nomination with former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio. The primary is Sept. 14.
Paladino first described the idea in June at a meeting of the Journal News of White Plains and spoke about it again this week with the Associated Press.
Throughout his campaign, Paladino has criticized New York’s rich menu of social service benefits, which he says encourages illegal immigrants and needy people to live in the state. He has promised a 20 percent reduction in the state budget and a 10 percent income tax cut if elected.
Asked at the meeting how he would achieve those savings, Paladino laid out several plans that included converting underused state prisons into centers that would house welfare recipients. There, they would do work for the state – “military service, in some cases park service, in other cases public works service,” he said – while prison guards would be retrained to work as counselors.
“Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we’ll teach people how to earn their check. We’ll teach them personal hygiene … the personal things they don’t get when they come from dysfunctional homes,” Paladino said.