POV has a recent series of films which go through the tormented experience of victims of murderous racial injustice without dramatizing or editing the story in some more rapid and politically articulate way and The Return is one example, which will anyway be shown on PBS POV Mon 10pm May 23 and this may have been a factor in our impatience in sitting through this rather sluggish movie’s first half hour, when its laborious style seemed to argue that it was unlikely to merit prioritizing watching on the bigger screen with others rather than on the smaller screen with some other business possible at the same time, however unfair this might seem to a film appealing to our natural empathy with the injustice perpetrated on a person among many, many others who deserved no jail time at all for the non violent crime of dealing in small amounts of a weed now rapidly becoming legal all over the US.In the mid 1990s, California voters enacted one of the harshest criminal sentencing policies in the country, but almost two decades later, the tide turned, and the possibilities for reform were forever changed.
California’s “Three Strikes” law imposed a life sentence for almost any crime, no matter how minor, if the defendant had two prior convictions for crimes deemed serious or violent. Today, more than half of inmates sentenced under the law are serving sentences for nonviolent crimes. But, in 2012, through overwhelming citizen support, Proposition 36 marked the first time in U.S. history that citizens voted to shorten sentences of those currently incarcerated. Within days, the reintegration of thousands of “lifers” was underway.
The Return, a new film by Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega, examines this unprecedented reform through the eyes of those on the front lines – prisoners suddenly freed, families turned upside down, reentry providers helping to navigate complex transitions, and attorneys and judges wrestling with an untested law. At a moment of reckoning for our country’s legacy of mass incarceration, what can California’s experiment teach the rest of the nation?
Join New America for a screening of Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award winner The Return and a conversation on the unjust policies of the criminal justice system – and the movement to re-write them.
Katie Galloway @KatieGalloways
Director, Producer, and Writer, The Return
Kevin Bilal Chatman @TheReturnDoc
Campaign Representative and film subject, The Return Project
Vivian D. Nixon @feedingfaith
Executive Director, College and Community Fellowship
Ronald Day @RonaldFDay
Associate Vice President, David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy, The Fortune Society
Beth Schwartzapfel @schwartzapfel
Reporter, The Marshall Project