‘Broken On All Sides:’ Using A Documentary Film as a Teaching Tool

We came across a link to an upcoming documentary film about the effects of mass incarceration called ‘Broken on all sides’. We were particularly interested in the description of the project that we found on YouTube:

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, poverty, and the criminal justice and penal systems. The feature-length documentary will be available for free– for activists and educators to use in order to raise consciousness and organize for change. The director, Matthew Pillischer, hopes to tour the documentary, setting up conferences in cities across the country, where a screening of the movie can kick off discussions by formerly incarcerated people and allies on how we can dismantle the system of mass incarceration.

The project centers around the theory put forward by many, and most recently by Michelle Alexander, 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 of segregation is today illegal when applied to black people but perfectly legal when applied to “criminals.” The problem is that through conscious and unconscious choices, black people have been targeted at significantly higher rates for arrest and prosecution. So, where does this leave criminal justice?

Through interviews with a formerly incarcerated person, a prison guard, a prison policy advocate, a judge, a journalist, prison activists, a former city mayor, and lawyers representing prisoners, this documentary will aim to answer questions and provoke questions on an issue walled-off from the public’s scrutiny.

This is very exciting for the PIC Teaching Collective as we look forward to potentially incorporating this documentary in our future workshops. In the meantime, here is a clip of the film:

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