Last summer I directed a three-part series on the over-criminalization of parts are society that should be helped, not punished for their conditions. Each piece tackles an issue in not only more human ways but cost effective ways as well. In each of the three episodes, we explore the social problems that we currently criminalize all over the country – mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness. I profiled three new programs that are working in Seattle, San Antonio and Salt Lake City.
As a one woman band out in the field (sometimes two if I am very lucky, thanks Max!) I really like shooting on the c300, which I did here.
The series was circulated on: Huffington Post, The Nation, The Young Turks, Daily Kos, Alternet, Truth-out and the ACLU.
Part one: Drugs.
In Seattle, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) gives police the option of diverting those with substance abuse issues from jail directly to social workers. And unlike other solutions, like drug courts, patients are not kicked out for relapses.
Part two: Mental Illness
In San Antonio, we looked into Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT), which are specially trained police officers who can de-escalate situations in which people are experiencing a mental health crisis. Instead of a violent outcome where the patient or police are hurt, and the person suffering the crisis ends up in jail, police are able to immediately connect them with treatment services.
Part three: Homelessness
In Salt Lake City, we looked at Utah’s Housing First program which boils down to a simple idea: give homeless people a place to live. The chronically homeless often are dealing with mental illness and substance abuse. Having a home first allows the stability and time needed to tackle the other problems.
In effort to keep this thing updated, I will be posting some of my work that was completed last year. Below is a two-part series I directed for Brave New Films about privatized probation in the south. The series was featured on Huffington Post in June 2014.
THE ISSUE: If someone gets a traffic ticket and can’t pay, the judge puts them on “probation,” which really means walking down the hall and signing up for a payment plan with a private probation company who has a contract with the court. If they can’t pay, they go to jail. (Which is somehow supposed to make paying the ticket easier for someone who can’t afford it in the first place.)
Like payday lenders, these for-profit companies seek out neighborhoods where they know the population will, on average, have a tougher time paying traffic tickets out right. Then they charge exorbitant fees. Judges who run these courts can end this tomorrow, either by exerting more oversight of these companies, or by simply ending contracts with them. As we explore in our documentary, traditional public probation does a fine job of enforcing the law without a profit motive.
THE SERIES: To Prison For Poverty, features two parts. Part 1 tells the story of Hali Wood, a 17-year-old from Columbiana, Alabama, in debt to a private probation company, JCS. Part 2 tells the story of Kathleen Hucks, a woman suing Sentinel Corrections Services for their abuse of power.
There is a place far from you and me, or anyone else where the people wait. And wait. And wait.
(Hint: It’s not Casablanca.)
My trip to Western Sahara was probably the single most important trip I have had in my life (and trudging career) to date. It will be such a challenge to fully represent everything that I have learned and witness there. But I will do my damnedest. The issue is so complex and with so many players involved I hope I can do it justice. Here goes nothing.
While I am busy editing away at this you can find more initial information about the issue in this article.
This Thursday I fly to Africa. To say that I am… excited, would be a poor use of diction. It’s far deeper, more emotional for me than that.
Since I have last posted regularly, it’s safe to say a lot has happened. I moved to LA. With big hopes and dreams I dove right in to the shit. And thats exactly what I found…for a while. But then I found a place where I could work on things that had substance. Things that matter to me. Things that mattered at all. So now I am a Story Producer. That term is used loosely because what a story producer would do in say, reality television, is not what I do at all.
As a story producer for Brave New Films, which is a “non-profit production company, I basically guerrilla style shoot short docs around the country on a wide variety of social justice issues. One woman band. I research, write, shoot, directed and edit short documentaries in partnership with national organizations and use social media to enhance the work of groups on the front lines and in communities, telling their stories from all across America.
I am a filmmaking, freedom fighter for social justice.
My first piece there was one I pitched in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech.
“A growing body of research suggests that one of the most pernicious effects of high adult- incarceration rates can be seen in the struggles of children like Steven Alexander, who often lose a crucial source of motivation and support with their parents behind bars. Stories like his are far too common today, forty years after the nation’s prison boom began wreaking havoc in African-American communities, which have been disproportionately affected by the ballooning incarceration rate. But until recently, there has been little hard data showing the effects on children. Some states allow the children of prisoners with sentences of a certain length to be adopted, thus severing ties with parents who use drugs or are involved in other criminal or gray-market activities. The theory is that children are likely better off without their crime-prone parents.
That theory has been largely disproved by new data that has allowed researchers to examine the well-being of children before and after a parent’s incarceration. A very small subset of children—those with abusive parents—were found to be more likely to thrive academically and socially if their parents are incarcerated. But most children declined markedly. In fact, the new research suggests that prisoners’ children may be the most enduring victims of our national incarceration craze.”
Below are two pieces I shot and directed about the effects of mass incarceration on children.
Vanessa’s Eight Year Sentence
Here is a piece I am currently working on. Whether it will get finished or not is a different story. I think ultimately, the story was not that strong. Some of the actors where really fun so I thought I would at least share the work in progress, if never a finish product.
Shooting it was very interesting. A crew of 12 or so on a bus still in service to the public for two days. My poor cameraman and motion sickness!!!
Anyway, many things not working here but I still have a place for the experience in my heart. Onward!