College Behind Bars

Watch the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary

The four-part documentary College Behind Bars is an intimate look at the lives and experiences of a dozen BPI students and their families that confronts and challenges conventional wisdom about the purpose of both education and incarceration.

Since the film aired in 2019…

Explore how BPI has changed and hear from alumni featured in the film

as of Nov 2023

DyJuan Tatro ’18.
“Education itself is what liberated me…it helped me understand my place in the world and activated me as a civically minded person.”
The BPI student body has expanded:

Then: 300, Now: 400+.

Sebastian Yoon ’17.

“Experiences like this made me want to fight harder, to study harder…so that I can make a dent–as just one person–in this thing we call the criminal justice system.”
The BPI alumni community is growing:

Then: 300, Now: 850+.

Shawnta Montgomery ’17.

“Now that I’ve been home for a few years, I appreciate even more what it means to be a Bard alum.”
The number of degrees conferred is rising:

Then: 549; Now: 765.

BPI Debate Union in the News:

“Three Prison Inmates Beat Harvard in a Debate. Here’s What Happened Next”


Debate recaps & upcoming event news — Keep up with all things Debate Union on the BPI Blog.

The BPI Debate Union is now 12-4.

Acclaim for the film:

“An important educational call to arms.

The doc is also a moving portrait of individuals determined to defy the odds and build a better future for themselves.”

Ms. Magazine logo.

“What you see at the end is a testament to the power of education, and why it remains such a dangerous and underrated weapon against a racially and economically unjust status quo in this nation.”

Grey Rolling Stone logo.

“The powerful new miniseries suggests we might find hope in the transformative effect of higher education.”

Forbes logo grey.

certified fresh rotten tomatoes


“A nuanced look at education in the prison industrial complex.”

Salon logo grey.

“Absorbing and inspiring. Provides a stark yet hopeful demonstration of the freedom that comes with opening your mind to a higher education.”

TV Insider logo.

“I don’t know how you could watch this and not be incredibly moved.”

New York Times logo.

“Provocative. Easily binge-able. Lynn Novick’s four-part series is persuasive and compelling as an argument for prison education reform… It will probably have you brushing away tears as you’re pondering bigger questions.”

The Hollywood Reporter logo.

Support BPI

Donate Now.
Becoming a BPI supporter means joining a community that believes in the power of education, and is committed to investing in people, reinventing institutions, and making education more accessible.

For more information about ways to support the Bard Prison Initiative, please visit our Support page or contact

Subscribe to the BPI Newsletter.

Icons with the following text next to them: "Latest news about BPI, valuable insights from staff and alumni, links to special media content" as well as an iPhone showing the BPI Newsletter on screen.

College Behind Bars is directed and produced by Lynn Novick; produced by Sarah Botstein; edited by Tricia Reidy ACE; produced by Salimah El-Amin and Mariah Doran; original music by Jongnic Bontemps; cinematography by Buddy Squires ASC and Nadia Hallgren. Ken Burns is executive producer. College Behind Bars is a production of Skiff Mountain Films, in association with Florentine Films and WETA-TV.

To learn more about this project go to:

Skiff Mountain Films

  • By providing your email or phone number, you are agreeing to receive news and updates from BPI via email or text message. You may change your preferences at any time using the link found at the bottom of every email or by replying 'HELP' for help or 'STOP' to cancel text messages.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.