BEING MORTAL, directed by Tom Jennings and based on the New York Times bestselling book by Atul Gawande, will premiere on Frontline PBS on Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 10pm. The Frontline Being Mortal webpage will also link to additional video, audio and print content based on this journalism. This is Lauren Mucciolo’s fourth producer credit for Frontline.
KET produced a fascinating, hour-long program following up on the film “Prison State.” Correspondent Renee Shaw went back to Beecher Terrace and talked with local activist Christopher 2X about the community. Shaw also interviewed numerous public officials featured in the documentary: Hasan Davis, former commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice in Kentucky; Rep. John Tilley of the KY Legislature; and Louisville Jail Director Mark Bolton. She further reached out to an expanded roster of public officials and advocates across the state: Fayette County prosecutor Ray Larson, who spoke on behalf of the opposition to Kentucky’s 2011 criminal justice reform bill; Kentucky’s Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Audrey Haynes; Kentucky’s Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet J. Michael Brown; Anthony Smith, director of Metro Louisville Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods Program; and Dr. Sheila Schuster, clinical psychologist and mental health advocate.
Seventeen-year-old Christel Tribble shares her thoughts on ‘PRISON STATE’ on WLKY and what it’s like living in one of the most incarcerated neighborhoods in America. She is joined by local activist Christopher 2X.
“I think this documentary is going to help, help it spread worldwide,” says Christel.” Throwing them in jail is not gonna help. They’re gonna have to try helping juveniles instead of incarcerating them.”
The Huffington Post wrote an insightful piece about ‘PRISON STATE’ and its portrayal of one neighborhood in America where almost everyone cycles in and out of jail and prison, including the children. Director Dan Edge explains:
“What sort of struck us as we were making this film is that all this money is essentially being invested in a neighborhood, and what do we have to show for it?” Edge said. “We have a lot of people in prison and a neighborhood that isn’t safe. That’s what drew us into this film: whether it’s a defensible way of spending tax dollars…. If you incarcerate people to the extent that you have in Beecher Terrace, where you have no family that isn’t touched by prison or jail in some way, it actually breaks up the social fabric of these communities,” he added. “Kids misbehave more and get sucked into crime more. Prison becomes the problem rather than the solution.”
Yesterday in The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen writes a very thoughtful article about ‘PRISON STATE’, noting that millions of Americans will have its eyes on Louisville this weekend for the Kentucky Derby, but in a distance of about four loops around the track, the residents of one Louisville neighborhood grapple with a crisis that has been tearing it apart for generations, and that crisis is mass incarceration:
You cannot watch this powerful film without being confronted with the futility of a system that keeps men and women in an endless cycle of incarceration. And while it is easy to blame the individuals chronicled here—Want to stay out of prison? Stay out of trouble!—it’s much harder in practice, sometimes impossiblein practice, to overcome the circumstances that have put them there.
A teenager’s mother is shot to death—and she descends into anger and madness. This person needs treatment, not jail. A war veteran became dependent upon drugs decades ago. He needs treatment, not jail. A bright young woman with a future is being sucked into the grim patterns and practices of her surroundings. She needs support, not a lesson in how to be an inmate.
These people needed to be treated differently, not just because it is the right and the ethical thing to do, but because it also is the practical thing to do. As Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s Inspector General, said last December, we simply cannot afford to incarcerate so many people in America.
The moral here is that we all end up paying, one way or another, and that it makes far more sense to pay to keep people out of prison than it does to ensure that they stay there. Three quarters of the residents of Beecher Terrace have been to prison, the narrator tells us, and the state spends $30 million a year locking up the residents within this single zip code. This is both irrational and tragic.