SURVIVORS GUIDE TO PRISON: DVD
Following the stories of Bruce Lisker and Reggie Cole who spent year after year in prison for murders they didn't commit; a harrowing look at how barbaric the US justice system is. The film ultimately asks how we can survive the prison model at all, and looks at better solutions for conflict resolution, harm reduction, crime and more. Hosted by filmmaker Matthew Cooke and guest hosting representatives from a wide range of Americans joining forces to urge change to this broken system.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This is an astonishingly effective exposition of America's disastrous criminal justice system - even if it does have an axe to grind. The axe is worth grinding, anyway. The editorial line is that the system is a horrendous affront to the very notions of justice and that prisons are doing the opposite of what we want them to do, namely rehabilitate, not just punish. Oh, they do the punish all right, far too well.
The filmmakers statement attached to the notes on the film says: "This is not just a film, but also a movement. We hope to swing the pendulum on legislation. We want prison reform, specifically prosecutorial reform and accountability on all levels of law enforcement, bail reform, mandatory sentencing, and solitary confinement and restorative justice programs."
But what makes the film outstanding is its scope: there is an equal focus on wrongful convictions and how they are manufactured in a system which relies on plea deals for its high rate of convictions. The Innocence Project in the US estimates there may be between 40,000 and 100,000 Americans currently in prison, wrongly convicted.
Prosecutorial misconduct and bad lawyering are some of the main problems, but the system's eagerness to incarcerate drug users is another - a constant theme. They, the drug users, represent a vast section of inmates, and black Americans represent the biggest racial group. These may not be new facts, but the film presents them in context and reveals the many flaws inherent in poor policing (poor training) and poor legislation, with an urgent and sincere drive.
Inmates and investigative journalists provide poignant and persuasive arguments for change and the film ends with some positive propositions to make a difference for the better, eg, end the war on drugs, provide citizen oversight within the system and make those within the system accountable.
Australia can learn from the American experience - our criminal justice system is not too dissimilar and wrongful convictions are a dark underbelly that is hardly ever explored or exposed.
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SURVIVORS GUIDE TO PRISON (TBA)
CAST: Documentary featuring Bruce Lisker and Reggie Cole
NARRATION: Susan Sarandon, Danny Trejo
PRODUCER: Christina Arquette, David Arquette, Gina Belafonte, Matthew Cooke, Steve De Vore, Adrian Grenier, Christina McDowell, Bryn Mooser, Susan Sarandon
DIRECTOR: Matthew Cooke
SCRIPT: Matthew Cooke
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew Cooke, Steve Minor
EDITOR: Matthew Cooke
MUSIC: Sebastian Robertson
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
VOD DISTRIBUTOR: Gravitas Ventures
DVD RELEASE: February 23, 2018