Lynn Novick Debuts ‘College Behind Bars’ Docu-Series at Bay Street

The American prison system is often criticized for deviating from or falling short of their mission to rehabilitate.  Many inmates return to their old stomping grounds ill prepared, unemployed and stigmatized. A great many of them find themselves living “on the inside” again after a brief tryst with freedom. Some inmates however, leave prison with more human capital than they entered with, thanks to opportunities for them to attend college. In New York State, inmates at six prisons can earn associate and bachelor’s degrees from the respected Bard College.

College Behind Bars, the latest project from Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director Lynn Novick—a frequent collaborator with famed documentarian Ken Burns—examines the effectiveness of the prison education system at providing earnest rehabilitation. The four-part docu-series follows incarcerated men and women as they work toward college degrees through the Bard Prison Initiative. Part of Bard College in Upstate New York, the Initiative is lauded as one of the country’s most rigorous prison education programs, serving subjects at medium to maximum security prisons in NY State.

Produced by Sarah Botstein and Ken Burns, the critical docu-series, which condenses four years of raw footage and interviews filmed inside prisons across New York State, is Novick’s solo directorial debut. It will air on PBS Monday, November 25 and Tuesday, November 26 from 9–11 p.m., but locals have a chance to see it sooner.

A preview screening of College Behind Bars is showing at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor this Friday August 23 at 4:30 p.m., with a panel discussion to follow featuring Novick and BPI alums Dyjuan Tatro and Sebastian Yoon.

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