EJS Screens Stirring Films on Incarceration and Family Detention

On Wednesday, October 14, more than 100 EJS members and friends from around the Bay Area joined us at the Sundance Kabuki Theater for the screening of two films about contemporary criminal justice issues. The screenings were spearheaded by EJS staffers Sara Jackson and Miguel Gavaldón.

The Trust (http://www.trustcommunity.org), currently in post-production, takes a personal look at incarceration and re-entry through the eyes of men struggling for transformation within the corrections system. The Least of These (http://theleastofthese-film.com) addresses the issue of family detention, looking in particular at the Don T. Hutto Residential Center and legal and community efforts to soften its harsh treatment of children and families.

After the screening, the films’ producers and some of the individuals profiled in the films participated in a question and answer session with an engaged and moved audience.

On first impression, it might seem that these two films take on important but unrelated issues.

The Trust is predominantly about the impacts of the prison-industrial complex in urban, African American communities – including the challenges of mass incarceration combined with limited opportunities for rehabilitation or re-entry.

The Least of These is about immigrant families (Middle Eastern, Latino and others) forced to flee atrocities in their home countries only to arrive in the United States and face long-term detention in for-profit, prison-like facilities because they have no access to asylum without being detained.

So what’s the connection? Well the crowd at the Kabuki-including students, activists, organizers and lawyers-was a perceptive one and it saw a clear connection between the two pieces: we live in a nation that systematically locks people up, and in large part failing to craft solutions consistent with the human and civil rights principles the United States purportedly stands for. Whether we call it incarceration, immigrant detention, enemy combatant detention, or internment, the United States always seems to be putting people away. And the people being put away always seem to be predominately people of color and the working poor.

The good news is that people are noticing, people are talking about it and people are working collectively to address this phenomenon. The film screening and subsequent discussion is a key example of this process. It was inspiring to see such a diverse crowd realize the big picture together even though different individuals are working on different angles and aspects of the issues. People left the event with a refreshed commitment to their own work as well as a new motivation to reach out and connect with others to bring a different, richer perspective to that work.

Thanks again to the co-sponsors, filmmakers, panel participants, and audience for making the event a definite success.

– Mairead Donahey

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