‘College Behind Bars’ documentary examines educating prisoners

Local News

Does educating prisoners lead to longterm good?

A new Ken Burns-produced documentary says ‘yes’, and was screened in Harrisburg Tuesday night.

“College Behind Bars” took six years to make, and explores the lives of inmates enrolled in the Bard Prison Initiative, or BPI, in New York State.

They take rigorous college classes, and earn degrees that filmmakers say lead to reduced crime, less recidivism — but more good down the road.

“Education is the way to get ahead, education is the way to get ahead, it’s a way to understand yourself, it’s a way to be in the world as a productive citizen,” said filmmaker and Emmy-award winner, Lynn Novick.

“I think having fundamental, fair and true access to opportunities to rehabilitate is necessary,” said BPI alumni, Wesley Caines.

John Wetzel, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, supports higher-ed behind bars and spoke at Tuesday’s screening.

“Think about an agency like a department of corrections, that’s gonna release 20,000 people into the workforce…why wouldn’t we put them in a position to meet our workforce needs?” said Wetzel. 

The documentary airs November 25 and 26 on PBS.

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