February 18th, 2014
12:49 PM ET

College-in-prison grad: 'You can have swagger and be a mathematician'

By Katie McLaughlin, CNN

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this weekend his state will launch a college-education program for prisoners at 10 facilities.

The program will offer both associate and bachelor's degrees by bringing college professors to the prisons from educational associations that provide accredited programs. Cuomo hopes it will reduce recidivism rates and the overall size of the prison population.

The program is based on an existing one - called Bard Prison Initiative - which provides college education and a Bard College degree to incarcerated individuals at six prisons in New York State.

CNN's Katie McLaughlin attended Bard Prison Initiative's graduation to file the following report.

A man who spent 17 years behind bars on a manslaughter conviction is back in prison. But not for the reasons you might expect.

Anthony Cardenales traveled to Eastern Correctional Facility in Napanoch, New York to attend Bard Prison Initiative’s 10th graduation ceremony. The program allows incarcerated men and women to obtain degrees from Bard College.

Anthony Cardenales is a graduate.

In 2003, when Bard arrived at the medium-security Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Woodbourne, New York, Cardenales had already been incarcerated for more than a decade and had completed every educational program available at the prison. Knowing that the job prospects for an ex-con were dismal at best, he wanted to make himself as marketable as possible upon his release.

The application process required Cardenales to deliver an essay response to a piece of literature. BPI is highly-selective and only admits about 15 students for every 100 applications received.

Cardenales believes it was his ambition and passion for learning that helped him secure a spot in the program.

“I’ve always been a driven person, I was just driven in the wrong direction,” Cardenales told CNN. Once accepted, “I put all my efforts into getting that degree,” he said.


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