The United States imprisons more people than any other nation, including China and Russia. Over 2.3 million adults are currently in American prisons and jails. Locking up more and more people for longer and longer doesn’t make us safer, yet still the incarceration rate has shot up 500% over the past four decades.
Mass incarceration is a broken system the U.S. government keeps funneling taxpayers’ money into. Without sentencing justice, people – primarily poor people of color – will continue to be locked up and released in a vicious cycle that fails to address the root causes of systemic issues such as trauma, poverty, and racism.
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Brave New Films’ short documentary Healing Trauma: Beyond Gangs and Prisons dives into the inner struggle of former gang members whose childhood trauma inevitably led to an anger that resulted in a criminal lifestyle and landed them in prison. Upon their release, these former gang members found their redemption with Homeboy Industries, Father Greg Boyle, and the many re-integrating programs offered through the Los Angeles-based organization. Healing Trauma: Beyond Gangs and Prisons follows the transformative stories of some of these former gang members as they share their adverse childhood experiences, gang involvement, and the hope they now have through the healing power of therapy.
Millions who are incarcerated today are there due to punitive policies that were been created around drug use and possession. Narrated by renowned physician and addiction specialist, Dr. Gabor Maté, Sentencing Reform: Drug Addiction, focuses on the criminalization of drug addiction and looks at evidence-based solutions that challenge perceptions of people struggling with addiction and asks us to reboot existing drug-related sentencing policies. In the video, we meet Shelly and Keith, two formerly incarcerated adults, who discuss their successful transition away from a life of drugs and lockup with the aid of a Seattle-based post-prison program. Shelly and Keith are living proof that there are viable and scalable solutions to reducing the prison population and ending generational traumas.
We explore the scope and source of mass incarceration in, Sentencing Reform: The Power of Fear. It's the first in a series that highlights the symptoms and solutions to the ongoing mass incarceration epidemic. The criminal justice system is failing but by targeting sentencing reform we can take measures to help break the cycle of systemic violence that disproportionately affects poor communities and communities of color in the U.S.