WRGB Search Results

The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Former inmate speaks in favor of prisoner degrees

BEACON -- Donald Felix spends most days driving his Cadillac to pick up customers throughout downstate New York. Felix started his own limo company last year after getting out of prison.

I got caught up making the wrong decisions as a kid, robbery case and an assault case, two separate cases, and wound up in prison doing 15 to 18 years, said Felix.

The Brooklyn native was sent to a correctional facility upstate and after years of doing menial tasks around the prison, he applied for the Bard Prison Initiative. I was a little intimidated at first, but I made my way went to the competition and I won; out of 120 people only 10 were taken, said Felix.

He took five to six classes each semester behind bars and graduated with an Associates Degree that he now proudly displays near his home office.

This is like heart, sweat, blood and tears, said Felix as he showed off his diploma. School is not a big thing in the ghettos. It's not a badge of honor saying yeah I graduated. I got this. No. They'll vastly praise you for going to prison and coming home.

Instead of returning to New York City, he moved with his wife to Beacon and used his education to start Lane Changes, Inc. He is now dispatched through MTC Limousine to shuttle corporate executives throughout the area.

Without a Bard education degree I wouldn't be able to conversate with these people. A kid from Brooklyn that all he knows about is Jay-Z and Biggie Smalls wouldn't be able to talk with these people on a day to day basis, said Felix.

Felix is one of more than 250 alumni of the Bard Prison Initiative. Less than 4 percent of them have returned to a life of crime compared to an estimated 40 percent of traditional inmates.

On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed resuming a program of providing some prisoners the opportunity to earn degrees. Since then several lawmakers have come out against the plan, but Felix hopes by telling his story it will change their minds.

I would have probably come home with no clue. My mind would have been off, said Felix. When your mind is off you do the things that are comfortable and that means going back to Brooklyn robbing, stealing, smoking weed and trying to duck parole and all the shenanigans, but no it changes you. It changes your thinking. It upgrades you.