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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, NY.

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 5 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 film not only offers an intimate look at the stories of inmates at Sing Sing, but also highlights the greater challenges facing American society with mass incarceration, recidivism, and re-entering society after imprisonment.

  • Produced and Directed by Roger Weisberg
  • Executive in Charge for WNET, Stephen Segaller