It has been claimed by both academic and non-academic research that the American criminal justice system, and, in particular, the prison setting have not been efficient. These commentators mention the disparities in sentencing and the harsh treatment of the inmates. Several movies including Prison State and Solitary Nation have been produced to voice such claims. This paper will focus on these two motion pictures and analyze them in the light of the themes discussed in class relating to the criminal justice system. The paper will also identify and explain the main ideas of the films and share the author’s opinion about them.
Prison State takes the audience to the epicenter of the ongoing furious debates on prison reforms (Edge, 2014a). It is a story of four individuals who have been grinded by the wheels of Kentucky criminal justice system. In the meantime, according to the movie, the state is making concerted attempts to interrupt the mass incarceration cycle (Edge, 2014a). In my opinion, the movie presents a clear picture of the major issues that affect the American criminal justice system. Foremost, the movie reveals the number of people in the prison system, which accounts for approximately 2.3 million people. I tend to think that such a high number demonstrates a deficiency in the American criminal justice system and easily makes a person lose their confidence with the discussed system. The movie shows that out of the inmate population, the majority comes from specified city neighborhood, which worsens the American prison system scenario even further (Galofaro, 2014). It also reveals that the residents of single blocks have been locked up. Evidently, this information portrays the discriminatory nature of the American criminal justice system. I even think that the system may be promoting crimes. As such, since it seeks to imprison specified groups of people, it necessarily means that the system is giving green light to the criminals from other communities to perpetrate the crime (Galofaro, 2014). The movie is of central importance as it makes an appeal to the criminal justice system policymakers in order to speed up the prison reforms.
Several themes are reflected in this particular movie. The first one is juvenile correction. Several of the four inmates whose lives are followed in the documentary are juveniles. Christel Tribble is a suicidal teenager who, before his arrest and incarceration, used to skip the school quite often. Demetria Duncan, a 14-year-old orphan, is depicted as a violent and angry girl (Edge, 2014a). Her mother’ suicide which happened five years ago could not but influence her. These juveniles have been jailed for non-violent crimes, which should not be the case. Given that the juveniles committed non-violent offenses, they should be placed in juvenile facilities and be subjected to corrective programs. They should definitely not be placed into the adult prison. Another theme presented is legal issues in the correction facilities. Each of the four inmates was experiencing psychological issues due to their difficult life. Charlie McDuffie is a veteran from Vietnam and, for decades, he has been smoking crack with the aim of forgetting the war (Galofaro, 2014). According to the film, Keith Huff is a schizophrenic. Demetria and Tribble are also revealed to be facing or having faced critical psychological issues due to their past life experiences (Edge, 2014a). This shows that Kentucky’s criminal justice system does not appropriately and effectively help the prison inmates. It is against the American law to imprison a mentally incapacitated person. A further theme that has been covered in this movie is special correctional population which consists of disadvantaged persons. As discussed, each of the four inmates is disadvantaged. Unlike other inmates, these are the people who need additional help and correction. According to Galofaro (2014), these people should be placed in a correctional facility that makes physical, mental, or even emotional difference. However, Kentucky’s prison system does not warrant this. Indeed, it does not have any special program tailored to meet the needs of these people.
Solitary Nation, also taking the form of a documentary, shows the audience an up-close, graphic portrayal of the solitary confinement unit in the maximum security prison in Maine (Edge, 2014b). It is based on the first-hand experiences as told not only by the prisoners but also by the staff that is eternally altered by indifferent prison system. According to the film, the inmates put in the solitary confinement are often those perceived as the most dangerous ones. However, a confinement cell, as the film documents, should serve for the inmates that are engaged in the tendencies that might be disruptive (Edge, 2014b). In this light, the solitary confinement is meant to protect such people from inflicting any harm to themselves and other inmates. The documentary was produced following the murder of the executive director of Colorado Department of Corrections. The perpetrator was a former inmate who had been confined in a solitary cell for a long time (Edge, 2014b). I suppose that Solitary Nation also attempts to show the ineffective nature of the American prison structure similar to Prison State. It clearly reveals that the prison system misses the point when it comes to solitary confinement. There is a misguided perception about the purpose of the solitary confinement facilities (Goyette, 2014). I feel that placing a person, especially a minor, in a confinement facility without any cause of alarm can potentially contribute to the development of psychological problems in the minor. Also, the fact that Tom Clement was killed by a former inmate shows that the current prison system is deficient in correcting the behavior of the inmates (Goyette, 2014). I believe that Solitary Nation spells an urgent need for reforming the system to assist the inmates in achieving a better outcome.