Grow and Diversify Your Collection: Criminal Justice

Roselly Torres's picture

Today we highlight films about the impact of incarceration in communities of color in the United States. 

  • Mass Incarceration and Deportation

  • Detention of Muslim and Arab Immigrants after September 11

  • Political Prisoners in the United States

  • Attica Uprising and the Prisoners’ Rights Movement 

  • Internment of Japanese Americans During WWII




Gideon's Army

Highly recommended by Video Librarian and Booklist

This documentary follows the personal stories of three young public defenders who are part of a small group of idealistic lawyers in the Deep South challenging the assumptions that drive a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point. Nearly 50 years since the landmark Supreme Court ruling Gideon vs. Wainwright that established the right to counsel, can these courageous lawyers revolutionize the way America thinks about indigent defense and make "justice for all" a reality? (Dawn Porter, 2013, 95 min., Color, US)



The Throwaways

Highly recommended by Educational Media Reviews Online!

A personal exploration of the devastating impact of police brutality and mass incarceration on the black community told through the eyes of formerly incarcerated activist and filmmaker Ira McKinley. With a raw and powerful urgency, the film speaks directly to the national movement rising and fighting back against a wave of police killings of black people in America. (Bhawin Suchak & Ira McKinley, 2014, 62 min., Color, US)



Corrections (2001)

This documentary about private prisons in the United States shows how venture capital firms have turned the criminal justice system into a profitable business. 



I Won't Drown On That Levee and You Ain't Gonna Break My Back

A delegation of activists travels to New Orleans to investigate what happened at the Orleans Parish Prison during and after Hurricane Katrina. (Ashley Hunt, Producer: The Corrections Documentary Project, 2006, 30 min., Color, US) 



Jails, Hospitals, And Hip Hop

Danny Hoch spins out the stories of ten lives shocked by global Hip-Hop, the prison system, and life in general. Moving masterfully in and out of the characters while the camera cuts from film narrative to live performances, Danny makes you look at cultural power in a new way that is hysterically funny, tragically sad, and uplifting all at once. (Mark Benjamin & Danny Hoch, 2000, 90 min., US) 



Lockdowns Up

A frightening look at the potentials that privatized prisons see for their industry following the policy shifts after September 11. A corporate conference call from one of the leading correctional facility corporations details the impact that such changes offer not only for investors but also for those most prone to racial profiling. (Ashley Hunt, documentary, 8 minutes, 2001) 




Deported follows members of a unique group of outcasts in Haiti: criminal deportees from North America. Since 1996, the United States implemented a policy of repatriation of all foreign residents who had been convicted of crimes. Every two weeks, about 50 Haitian nationals are deported from the United States; 40 percent are convicted permanent residents who completed their jail sentence in America. To a lesser extent, Canada applies a similar policy. (Rachèle Magloire & Chantal Regnault, 2012, 72 min., Color, Haiti) 



Arizona: Resisting SB 1070 Immigration Law

These four videos document the impact of SB 1070 and other immigration policies on the lives of immigrant families in Arizona, and the growing national efforts to end these violations of human and civ… (Producer: NDLON, NDWA & Puente Movement, 2011, 60 min., Color, US)





Enemy Alien 

A gripping documentary on the fight to free Farouk Abdel-Muhti, a Palestinian-born human rights activist detained in a post-9/11 sweep of Muslim immigrants. Through the eyes of the filmmaker—the grandson of Japanese Americans interned during World War II—ENEMY ALIEN takes on unprecedented intimacy and historical resonance. As the filmmaker confronts his family legacy of incarceration, his involvement in the current struggle deepens. Resistance brings consequences: In retaliation for organizing a hunger strike, Farouk is locked in solitary confinement, and a counterterrorism investigation into the documentary itself triggers the arrest of Farouk's American-born son Tarek. (Konrad Aderer, documentary, 82 minutes, 2011)



Life or Liberty

The popular cries for increased security since September 11 have glossed over the potential impact OF heightened surveillance and policing may have on fundamental civil liberties. This film highlights … (Konrad Aderer, 2001, 9 min., Color, US) 



Waiting for Mercy: The Case against Mohammed Hossain and Yassin Aref

Were these two Muslim men who had no prior criminal history set-up to appear as criminals, or were they possible terrorists? This documentary tells the story of a fictitious FBI plot in … (Ellie Bernstein, Producer: Tony Grocki, 2009, 68 min., Color, US) 





Farouk Abdel Muthi: Political Prisoner

The late Farouk Abdel-Muhti was born in Ramallah, Palestine, in 1947. His mother died when Israeli Occupation forces refused to let his family through a checkpoint to reach a hospital. He came to the U… (Konrad Aderer, 2003, 9 min., Color, US) 



Out: The Making of a Revolutionary

Convicted of the 1983 US Capitol Bombing, and "conspiring to influence, change, and protest policies and practices of the United States government through violent and illegal means," Laura Whitehorn… (Sonja de Vries & Rhonda Collins, 2000, 60 min., Color, US)



Behind These Walls: Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Long Struggle For Freedom

On August 17, 1995, Mumia Abu-Jamal, journalist and former Black Panther Party Member, was scheduled to be executed. His case--he is one of 3,000 death row inmates in the US--has raised international a… (Jule Buerjes & Heike Kleffner, Producer: KAOS FIlm and Video Team Cologne, 1996, 70 min., Color, US)



Can't Jail the Revolution and Break the Walls Down

These two 30 minute videos use footage compiled from over 40 social justice media productions to chronicle the perspectives of political prisoners and war within the United States. Historical foot… (Kenyatta Tyehimba & Ada Gay Griffin, Producer: Third World Newsreel, 1991, 60 min., Color, US)



Bobby Seale a.k.a. Interview with Bobby Seale (Newsreel #44)

At the time of this moving prison interview, Black Panther Party Chairman Bobby Seale had faced a series of charges of conspiracy in connection with his involvement in the Black Liberation and Anti-wa… (San Francisco Newsreel, Producer: Newsreel, 1969, 15 min., BW, US) 





Teach Our Children

This film focuses on the historic 1971 Attica prison rebellion in upstate New York. It targets the conditions that caused prisoners to take drastic steps toward securing their basic rights. The film questions the reactions of prison warden Oswald, New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, and President Nixon, as well as the death of 31 inmates and prison officers from bullets fired by the National Guard. Through on-site footage taken during and following the rebellion, and follow-up interviews with inmates, this film relates a powerful message concerning prisoner's rights and provides an important historical document. (Christine Choy & Susan Robeson, 1972, 35 min., BW, US)




In the Event Anyone Disappears

This documentary examines conditions faced by US prisoners in the early 70s, which have remained virtually unchanged until today. Shot inside men's maximum-security prisons in Trenton and Ra… (Allan Siegel, 1974, 25 min., Color, US)



We Demand Freedom

This film traces the development of prison philosophy; how prisons have been used historically and their function in the 1970s. From the period of the slave trade through the mid-70s, this film shows how the… (Allan Siegel, 1974, 55 min., Color, US)



Inside Women Inside

Christine Choy & Cynthia Maurizio, 1978, 21 min., Color, US

This film exposes the daily humiliation women regularly face in prison by using firsthand accounts of inmates at the North Carolina Correctional Center for Women and the Correctional Institute for Women at Riker's Island, New York. (Christine Choy & Cynthia Maurizio, 1978, 28 minutes)




Dreams Inside and Out (1990)

This film documents the history of The Family, a repertory theater company composed of former inmates and actors, and born in the aftermath of the 1971 Attica uprising.




Resistance at Tule Lake

The dominant narrative of the World War II incarceration of Japanese-Americans has been that they behaved as a "model minority," that they cooperated without protest and proved their patriotism by enl… (Konrad Aderer, 2017, 78 min., US)




Lest We Forget

This film explores a lesson that history has forgotten in a country that is alienating its citizens and violating their fundamental rights. During World War II, it was Japanese-Amer… (Jason DaSilva, 2003, 80 min., Color, US) Endure

An animated film told through a young girl's eyes combines the drawings of Betty Chen and haunting music of Nobuko Miyamoto to tell of 110,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated in US concentration… (Bob Miyamoto, Drawings by Betty Chen, 1982, 6 min., Color)


Roselly Torres

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