Incarcerated men and women in New York State are admitted to the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), one of the most rigorous college programs in America. As they begin their studies at Eastern and Taconic Correctional facilities, they discover that they will be held to the same high standards as Bard College students on the main campus in Annandale-on-Hudson.
Sebastian, Dyjuan and Tamara reflect on the difficult circumstances of their childhood, while the debate team prepares to face the University of Vermont. Shawnta, Tamika and Tamara make great strides academically, only to discover that BPI keeps raising the bar. Brian and Rodney are accused of breaking prison rules and sent to the solitary housing unit, SHU, their education in serious jeopardy.
The debate union faces their rival across the river, West Point. Rodney, Sebastian and Giovannie embark on yearlong senior projects. Newly released from federal prison, Dyjuan’s younger brother, Kanan, comes for a visit, as does Rodney’s sister, Elitha. Tamara receives devastating news from home, and Shawnta reckons with her own path to prison. In New York City, Jule struggles to find work.
The debate union faces Harvard. While Rodney and Sebastian complete their 100-page senior projects and present them to faculty, Giovannie gets into trouble and is sent to SHU, not able to complete his project before being released. At graduation at Taconic, Tamara, Tamika and Shawnta receive associate degrees, while at Eastern, Rodney and Sebastian receive bachelor’s degrees.