Videos and Films
directed by Shanti Thakur, produced by Mark ZannisThe last few generations of Natives living in Canada's Yukon territories have experienced the degradation of their land and the near destruction of their culture. In response to this, rampant alcohol and drug abuse has resulted in a disproportionately high incarceration rate. Prison has only further hurt the community, so its residents develop sentencing circles as an alternative. The circle brings together the perpetrator, victims, peers, and elders to find alternate methods of sentencing that focus on healing everyone rather than punishing the perpetrator. Circle is an excellent illustration of the process of community justice.
directed by Ashley HuntCorrections shows us justice turned to profit: a documentary about the the Private Prison and the commercialization of the US prison system. After 30 years of a War on Drugs, Tough-on-Crime politics, and a seven-fold increase in prisoner populations, the US prison system now desires its own growth for reasons "other than justice." Exploring themes of racism and deepening poverty, Corrections travels to the Dixieland music and helium balloons of a prison trade show; to a poor town in Michigan which lobbies for the money they hope a new prison will bring; to Mississippi, where a community beseiged by new prisons remembers the State's leasing of convicts for-profit after the Civil War, and to a juvenile prison in Louisiana, where a private corporation profits from the new laws imprisoning younger children for longer.
(For more informantion, check http://www.independentfilms.com/corrections/
or email Ashley Hunt (firstname.lastname@example.org))
directed by Jonathan Stack and Elizabeth GarbusThe Farm focuses on the lives of six inmates at Angola State Prison. George Crawford, 22, has just arrived with the hope that his family will raise enough money for his appeal, while John Brown has spent the last 12 years living on death row. The lives of these men take place within the context of Angola State Prison, a multimillion dollar enterprise that pays its inmates four cents an hour for fieldwork. While neither condemning nor preaching, the film raises questions about who prisons serve and what their role should be. The Farm does not dismiss the seriousness of the crimes many inmates have committed, but asks the viewer to consider their humanity and the confluence of circumstances that surround their incarceration.
The Last Graduation
directed by Barbara ZahmThe Last Graduation frankly explores the issues involved in the federal and state governments' rush to cut off funds for effective college prison programs. Framed within the historical context of the Attica prison riots in 1971, the film explores the development of education programs within the prisons and documents the ultimate closing of the Marist College prison education program in New York. With filmmaker Benay Rubenstein; author Hettie Jones; and former inmates Precious Bedel, a graduating college senior, and Jan Warren, who completed her BA and MA in prison, the film showcases the power of education and the limitless possibilities for change.
Lock Down USA
directed by DeeDee Halleck and Cathy Scott, 1997Powerful industries now are pushing for increased prison construction, even though the crime rate is relatively stable. Lock Down USA is an emotional view from the communities most effected: the prisoners and the growing community of human rights activists who are involved in trying to change the system. Footage of a vigil outside an execution in Missouri, the closing of the college program in a New York State prison and a protest at a penitentiary in Trenton show the complex interactions between politicians, corporations, media, and community residents. The film includes interviews with Steven Donzinger, the head of a national commission to study crime; Ruth Gilmore, an African American prison activist from New Jersey; Eddie Ellis, a survivor of the Attica prison rebellion; and Janine Jackson, a radio commentator (Pacifica) from FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting).
Lock-Up, The Prisoners of Rikers Island Lock Down
directed by Nina Rosenblum and Jon AlpertRikers Island is the world's largest jail, with 20,000 inmates. Most young men in New York City have a better chance of going to Rikers Island than they do of going to college. Ninety percent of the inhabitants are black or Hispanic, only 10% have graduated from high school, 20% are HIV positive, and 70% are there for drug-related crimes. It's not cheap. It costs more per night than the Waldorf Astoria. And, it is not effective. Seventy percent of the inmates are back in Rikers within two years of their release. A riveting document of an absurd institution, with its tracts reserved for gays, pregnant women, and the mentally ill. The director flashes his inimitable spotlight on the conditions inside: brutality, crime, tenderness, inquisitions, hopes, drug problems, day-to-day life, and extreme situations.
OUT: The Making of a Revolutionary
directed by Sonja de Vries and Rhonda Collins, 2000In 1985, activist Laura Whitehorn was convicted of bombing the US Capitol building and "conspiring to influence, change and protest policies and practices of the United States government through violent and illegal means." OUT chronicles the life of this courageous woman, who grew up in a liberal Jewish household, became involved with radical left politics in the tumultuous years of the 1960's and was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1985. Whitehorn has seen the twentieth century evolve, while the injustices surrounding class, race and gender remain the same. OUT is a compelling portrait of a modern American radical. Whether you agree or disagree with radical left politics, this documentary challenges you to think about what you might be willing to risk for your own beliefs.
Maximum Security University
directed by Tom QuinnThe film reveals the human rights abuses and mental and physical violence occurring in high-tech maximum security units at California's Corcoran State Prison. Using prison security camera footage, Maximum Security University reveals the gladiator fights that led to the killing of five prisoners at Corcoran between 1988 and 1995.
Prisoner of LoveDuring the 1970s and 1980s, Congress and many state legislatures passed mandatory minimum sentencing laws that force judges to hand out fixed sentences, without parole, to people convicted of certain drug offenses. Prisoner of Love exposes the effects of such criminal justice policies through the exploration of specific cases. Amy Pofahl and Kemba Smith were both imprisoned for 24 years after participating in minor ways in their boyfriend's and husband's drug deals. The film includes Interviews with Eric Sterling, a former congressional staffer who helped draft the laws he is now fighting to repeal, Georgia congressman Bob Barr of the House Judiciary Committee, Monica Pratt of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Elaine Jones of the NAACP, and parents of the victims.
directed by Ben Gale and Leeanne VinsonIn a special two-hour report, FRONTLINE explores the daily workings of America's criminal justice system to reveal the offers, counteroffers, deals, and compromises that keep cases moving through Boston Suffolk County's crowded courts. From District Court, where mundane cases are handled swiftly, to the Superior Court, where prosecutors tackle the most difficult murder cases, the program follows the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and defendants as they make their way through a court system that handles 50,000 cases each year.
produced by Ofra BikeSnitch investigates how a fundamental shift in the country's anti-drug laws, including federal mandatory minimum sentencing and conspiracy provisions, has bred a culture of snitching that is in many cases rewarding the guiltiest and punishing the less guilty. The film looks at several unsettling cases in which prosecutors go after small fish—drug dealers' mothers, cousins, even lawyers—either to pressure them into testifying or because the big fish snitched first. One young man in Alabama, Clarence Aaron, was sentenced to three consecutive life terms without parole for arranging a meeting between supplier and dealer, while the more culpable parties in the deal—who all decided to snitch on Aaron—served minimal or no sentences.
System Failure: Violence, Abuse and Neglect in the California Youth Authority
produced by WITNESS and Books Not Bars.This video offers testimony of the human rights violations taking place at the California Youth Authority (CYA), one of the largest youth correctional agencies in the country. Nationally, California stands in sharp contrast to a number of states who have reformed or are in the process of reforming their juvenile justice systems, replacing punishment for punishment's sake models with rehabilitative, restorative justice models such as Texas, New York, Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, and most notably Missouri.
Thug Life in DC
directed by Marc Levin, 1998Bruno, one of 24,000 African American men aged 18 to 35 who has found himself in conflict with the city's criminal justice system, is the youngest incarcerated black male in Lorton Prison's maximum security wing. He talks candidly about the lure of thug life and its often sad inevitability. Bruno expresses hope that his younger brother will somehow be able to escape the harsh lifestyle of many inner-city youths, immortalized by gangsta rappers such as the archetypal thug himself, the late Tupac Shakur. In Marc Levin's film, some of the men profiled have come to realize that thug life in DC, or anywhere else, isn't all outlaw glamour and can entail loss of life and liberty.
Too Soon for Sorry
directed by Katharina Weingartner, 2001Too Soon for Sorry explores the cultural and economic conditions behind the prison industrial complex through a look at four US Prisons. Desire and fear, adventure and greed, control and revenge have created not only a highly sophisticated form of oppression with 2 million people behind bars but a deadly mix for a whole generation of african americans and latinos.
We Are Not Who You Think We Are
directed by Tracy Huling and Robin Smith, 1993 (13 minutes running time)Women inmates at a maximum security prison talk candidly about growing up with family violence, sexual abuse, drugs, and alcohol. As girls, they cried out for help. No one listened. As young women, they tried to escape in the streets. This video offers poignant insight into the patterns of violence, addiction, and crime that cycle from generation to generation.
Yes, In My Backyard
directed by Tracy Huling, 1998During the last two decades, prisons have become a growth industry in rural America. The implications of this trend are profound for individuals, families, and communities in both rural and urban America. Since the 1980s the majority of new prisons have been placed in rural areas and small towns, and today half of all U.S. prisoners are considered residents of rural communities. Through the eyes of one farming-community-turned-prison-town in upstate New York, Yes, In My Backyard delves into the reasons why prisons are now sought after as a means of economic development and probes the consequences of this trend for the keepers and the kept.
Dead Man WalkingDead Man Walking is based on Sister Helen Prejean's book. This movie follows a young man on death row and his spiritual advisor during his last days. The last meal scene with his family is particularly poignant and painful. The victim's family confronts the spiritual advisor and challenges her to address their needs as well.