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MICROPOLIS: Graduation Day at Sing Sing Prison

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 04:00 AM

The graduates with their diplomas (Arun Venugopal/WNYC)

Forty percent of the inmates in New York state return to prison within three years of their release. But there are important exceptions. Among those are the maximum security inmates behind the walls of Sing Sing in Ossining, NY who have obtained a masters degree in Professional Studies —a one-year graduate degree administered by the New York Theological Seminary. Their recidivism rate over 31 years has been just 10 percent. The rate for those who've left with a degree in the last five years? Zero.

In this Micropolis, we visit Sing Sing on graduation day to meet with some of the men who have tried to turn their lives around while becoming assets to the prison community.

These include 40-year-old Rodney Grayson. When Grayson was 18, he killed a man simply because the victim was a flashy dresser and had entered onto Rodney's turf. The crime made Rodney something of a celebrity on the streets — and he says younger men often ask about the incident. But now, he uses his street cred to launch into discussions of ethics that are grounded in faith. 

"I don't care what gang you in, I don't care how tough you in, when you start talking about God, it brings a soft spot to a person," Grayson says. "There's something innate within us that's dormant. Even if they don't want to believe it. The toughest man respects God. Whether he believe in it or not. Because it's the unknown."

Listen to the Micropolis segment above.

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Comments [9]

Ana that's ignorant to say... These guys have to eventually come home, so they shouldn't be educated??? They shouldn't be given a scone chance?? Or should they just continue to knock u and others in the head for your purse???

Jun. 24 2013 07:46 PM
Louise Wood from Highland Lakes NJ

If you have known people in prison, its not like the crime shows on TV. a public defendor meets 10 minutes before court for 5 minutes talking so fast - me a college grad doesnt get it. they say plead guilty and you get 1 year, fight it you'll get 5 years. Once you have a record - in this country you are part of the underclass. Crime seems the only way to make a living. ALL inmates should be receiving education or trade to be ABLE to support themselves and their families. The loss of freedom is the punishmnet - the loss of dignity and family leads to recitivism.

Jun. 22 2013 10:01 AM
JLO1965 from Lima, Ohio

The point is laws change all the time. These men want to change. this money is donated for them to receive that education. The program works it's small minded people like Ana that lack critical thinking skills to get the big picture !

Jun. 20 2013 05:58 PM
David from Fairfield CT

Most of these guys can't find a job either after their reentry into society because of their criminal record.

Jun. 19 2013 11:58 AM
HipHopSays from Fort Greene

I am conflicted by the idea of educating those who are incarcerated. Having met many of the men who went through the MPS program at sing sing, I am clear it has some value with regards to successful reentry. But on the same hand I have watched as these young men struggled with basic critical thinking tasks which you would expect someone with a masters to have. I think the skills gained through the program is not on par with what greater society expects from the masters level and in turn does a grave disservice to the young men who believe there's an equivalency ...

Jun. 19 2013 10:34 AM
David from Fairfield CT

@Ana fron Mahwah, NJ
Excellent point! I agree with you completely. I would also add that in many cases it is wasted education. I'm familiar with someone who got a free "law degree" in prison even though he's serving 2 life sentences (over 100 years). Point is, he's never getting out, so what's the use. At the sametime, young kids are being burden down with $150,000 debt in order to earn a decent law degree.

Jun. 19 2013 09:15 AM
Sally from Brooklyn

Ana, I want the incarcerated to have as much education as we can possibly give them as preparation for their reentry into our society. And, yes, our great society can afford free education for ALL Americans as well as health care for all. We just choose not to provide these services.

Jun. 19 2013 09:04 AM
Arun from New York City

Ana from Mahwah: As the audio version of the story indicates, their educations were funded through private donations, not taxpayers.

Jun. 19 2013 09:00 AM
Ana from Mahwah, NJ

I believe that if someone committed a crime, should not have the privilege to get free educations with tax payer's money. In today's social and economical down-terms, low income families struggle to pay for at least two years of college education, while those who have killed, robbed and taken an innocent life has such privilege! That benefit is totally beyond my comprehension. Instead the Government should give these kinds of people some technical skills in order to produce something to maintain the same facility that supports them; i.e farming, so they can produce their own food or their on clothing. Free Education should be for those who are making great efforts to make a difference in our social life. "The unknown heroes".

Jun. 19 2013 08:41 AM

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