About This Episode
The expression, sent up the river, was coined by convicts who were sent up the Hudson River to do their time at the infamous Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. First Degree finds hope in this seemingly hopeless place by investigating an unusual college behind bars that is successfully preventing Sing Sing inmates from being sent back up the river after their release. Nationwide, over half of released inmates return to prison within five years, but for the past 14 years, less than 1% of the inmates that received a college degree at Sing Sing returned to prison.
The documentary takes viewers inside this notorious maximum security prison and introduces them to inmates Sean Pica, Jermaine Archer and Clarence Maclin. Although First Degree is primarily an intimate portrait of these three Sing Sing inmates who discover the transformative power of higher education, their stories are emblematic of larger challenges facing our society.