FOXBORO (CBS) – From jail time to a full-time job. The four-part documentary series “College Behind Bars” captures how difficult it is for a group of inmates in New York to earn a college degree.
“We sometimes forget they’re human beings – struggling to escape the gravity of their circumstances and do extraordinary work,” said filmmaker Ken Burns.
The film highlights the “Bard Prison Initiative” – one of the most rigorous, but effective prison education programs in the country.
“We don’t have the same access to technical assistance that people that are not in prison have. We don’t have Google. That means we have to do a lot of hard work and a lot of reading,” said Salih Israil, a graduate of the program.
The powerful and intimate interviews captured the attention of several New England Patriots players who attended a special screening of the documentary at the Showcase Cinemas, just steps from Gillette Stadium.
“You watch this, you get to see these men and women, not just going through a program, but putting in work. Talking about staying up until two, three o’clock in the morning – studying, writing papers,” said Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty.
Filmmakers hope it’ll spark a larger conversation about how education can prevent recidivism.
“We come back into the community, not only with degrees, but with a network and a college behind us that is really, really successful in helping us get jobs,” said program graduate Dyjuan Tatro.
The series airs on PBS on November 25th and 26th.