The project began as a way to explore, educate about, and advocate change around the overcrowding of the Philadelphia county jail system. The documentary has come to focus on mass incarceration across the nation and the intersection of race and poverty within criminal justice.
The feature-length documentary is available for activists and educators to use in order to raise consciousness and organize for change. Since its completion in February 2012 the director, Matthew Pillischer, has been doing a grassroots tour of the movie: setting up meetings in cities across the country, where a screening of the movie can kick off discussions by people who were formerly incarcerated and their families and allies on how we can dismantle the system of mass incarceration. If your school, workplace, organization, or religious institution can host a screening, please contact the director.
The documentary centers around the theory put forward by many, and most recently by Michelle Alexander (who appears in the movie), that mass incarceration has become “The New Jim Crow.” That is, since the rise of the drug war and the explosion of the prison population, and because discretion within the system allows for arrest and prosecution of people of color at alarmingly higher rates than whites, prisons and criminal penalties have become a new version of Jim Crow. Much of the discrimination that was legal in the Jim Crow era is today illegal when applied to black people but perfectly legal when applied to “criminals.” The problem is that through subjective choices, people of color have been targeted at significantly higher rates for stops, searches, arrests, prosecution, and harsher sentences. So, where does this leave criminal justice?
Through interviews with people on many sides of the criminal justice system, this documentary aims to answer questions and provoke questions on an issue walled-off from the public’s scrutiny.
- Khalid Abdul Rasheed and Theresa Shoatz, activists with the Human Rights Coalition (Philadelphia)
- Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” Associate Professor of Law at Mortiz College of Law, and Senior Fellow at Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity
- Jonathan Feinberg, partner with Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg
- John Goldkamp, Chair of the Temple University Criminal Justice Department
- Nathaniel Gravely Hayes, construction worker, formerly incarcerated in the Philadelphia Prison System (PPS)
- Angus Love, board member of PA Prison Society
- Marlene Martin, National Director of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty
- Tom Namako, journalist who toured PPS and wrote City Paper articles on overcrowding
- John Street, former mayor of Philadelphia
- Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper, Supervising Judge at the PA Court of Common Pleas Criminal Division
- Su Ming Yeh, attorney with PA Institutional Law Project
- Carlton Young, former correctional officer in PPS
by Leonard C. Jefferson (a prisoner at SCI Albion, Pennsylvania)
- John Coursey
- Brendan Dougherty
- Shaun Ellis
- Jesse Olsen & David Wilson (a poet incarcerated in California)
- Alexander Vittum
- Sunday Labor
- Tide Tables
- Tha Truth
- Matthew Pillischer
Reprint: Broken On All Sides (Website)