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Criminal Justice


Directed by Anne Makepeace

Documents an effective criminal justice reform movement in America: the efforts of tribal courts to return to traditional, community-healing concepts of justice.

TRIBAL JUSTICE is a feature documentary about a little known, underreported but effective criminal justice reform movement in America today: the efforts of tribal courts to create alternative justice systems based on their traditions. In California, the state with the largest number of Indian people and tribes, two formidable Native American women are among those leading the way. Abby Abinanti, Chief Judge of the Yurok Tribe on the northwest coast, and Claudette White, Chief Judge of the Quechan Tribe in the southeastern desert, are creating innovative systems that focus on restoring rather than punishing offenders in order to keep tribal members out of prison, prevent children from being taken from their communities, and stop the school-to-prison pipeline that plagues their young people.

Abby Abinanti is a fierce, lean, elder. Claudette White is younger, and her courtroom style is more conventional in form; but like Abby, her goal is to provide culturally relevant justice to the people who come before her. Observational footage of these judges' lives and work provides the backbone of the documentary, while the heart of the film follows offenders as their stories unfold over time, in and out of court. These other stories unfold over time, engaging viewers with the dedication of the judges, the humanity of the people who come before them, and a vision of justice that can actually work.

Through the film, audiences will gain a new understanding of tribal courts and their role in the survival of Indian people. The film will also inspire those working in the mainstream legal field to consider new ways of implementing problem-solving and restorative justice, lowering our staggering incarceration rates and enabling offenders to make reparations and rebuild their lives.

DVD / 2017 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adults) / 87 minutes

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Directed by Eve Marson

The case of Dr. William Hurwitz educates audiences on the complexities involved in opioid painkiller prescriptions.

The story of Dr. William Hurwitz - a preeminent pain specialist sentenced to 25 years in prison for drug trafficking - provides a window into the ethical dilemma of opioid prescriptions. Painkillers give doctors tremendous power to relieve pain, a primary goal of any physician. But this power begets trouble when the same drugs can lead to addiction, abuse and death.

In 2004 Dr. William Hurwitz was convicted of over 50 counts of narcotics distribution and handed a 25-year prison sentence. DR. FEELGOOD traces Dr. Hurwitz's trial and eventual appeal, detailing the events that led to his arrest.

Testimonies from the witnesses in Dr. Hurwitz's case contradict one another - some revere him, while others condemn him. Taken together, their accounts reveal a profile of a compassionate yet flawed doctor. The film, in telling his story, underscores the tension between every patient's right to pain relief and the lawful need for drug control. There could not be a more critical time to spark discussion on the topic, and call for careful thought and action.

DVD / 2016 / (Grades 10 - 12, College, Adults) / 84 minutes

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Directed by Regan Hines

Exposes America's prison problem and explores various criminal justice reforms.

Incarcerating US exposes America's prison problem and explores ways to unshackle the "land of the free" through vital criminal justice reforms. With 2.3 million people behind bars, the U.S. has the largest prison population in the history of the world.

Through dramatic first-hand accounts, expert testimony, and shocking statistics, Incarcerating US asks fundamental questions about the prison system in America: What is the purpose of prison? Why did our prison population explode in the 1970s? What can make our justice system more just?

The film begins with a brief overview of U.S. prisons and the flawed policies that fueled unprecedented overincarceration. In many cases, these laws exacerbate problems they were designed to solve. Through both empirical evidence and the eyes of those tragically affected by the system for committing minor crimes, we see the failures of two major initiatives: the War on Drugs and mandatory minimum sentences.

Incarcerating US tells the story of America's broken criminal justice system through the eyes of those who created it, those who have suffered through it, and those who are fighting to change it. After decades of failures, now is the time to unshackle the land of the free.

DVD / 2016 / (Grades 9-12, College, Adults) / 84 minutes

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Directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega, Katie Galloway

After California's "Three Strikes" law was amended, thousands of lifers were suddenly freed, but re-entry presented problems for the lifers, their families and their communities.

In 2012, California amended its "Three Strikes" law--one of the harshest criminal sentencing policies in the country. The passage of Prop. 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 examines this unprecedented reform through the eyes of those on the front lines--prisoners suddenly freed, families turned upside down, reentry providers helping navigate complex transitions, and attorneys and judges wrestling with an untested law. At a moment of reckoning on mass incarceration, what can California's experiment teach the nation?

DVD / 2016 / (Grades 9-12, Adults) / 84 minutes

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Directed by Katie Galloway, Kelly Duane de la Vega

After his only son is murdered in the Mexican drug war, a mystic poet launches an international crusade to save his country.

EL POETA tells the story of renowned Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, who ignited mass protests and an ongoing movement for peace after the brutal murder of his 24-year-old son Juan Francisco - collateral damage in a drug war that has left 60,000+ dead since 2006 - the majority civilians.

Drawing on the philosophical, artistic and spiritual dimensions of Sicilia and his movement, EL POETA reinterprets the "hard news" horror story of the Mexican drug war as a deeply personal, poetic and at times even hopeful one, tracing Sicilia's path from poet and father to movement leader and international symbol of grief and redemption.

DVD / 2015 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adult) / 55 minutes

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Director: David Massey

Directed by Oscar-nominated and NAACP Image Award winner David Massey, this dynamic documentary features legal experts, local activists, and law enforcement officers delving into ongoing charges of inequality, unfair practices, and politicized manipulations of America's judicial system. Additionally, the Black Lives Matter movement and citizens nationwide question the staggering number of police shootings of unarmed Black men and women.

DVD / 2015 / 40 minutes

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Director: Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza

Written and acted by young people in New York City's foster care system, Know How presents dramatic stories ripped from their own life experiences. Five characters' worlds intersect as they confront loss, heartbreak, adulthood, and bureaucracy in this tale about transience and perseverance.

Addie lives with her Aunt Janet in what's known as "kinship" care; her biological parent is unfit to care for her. Addie's closest friends are from her block: Juice, a drug dealer, and Marie, a girl on the verge of spiraling out of control.

Marie's grandmother has been in the hospital for months now and the prognosis is bleak. Her boyfriend Trey takes care of her as best he can, but both of them are struggling in the foster system.

When the Administration for Children's services (ACS) finds out that Megan's been physically and sexually abused they remove her from her family. Separated from her sister Kayla, she's placed in a treatment facility that is anything but safe.

Eva only has one more year of school, and yet her sister Desi cannot seem to find the time to attend classes. When ACS discovers their father's crack addiction, the family is torn apart.

Austin and his brother James have been living on the street-hungry for a good meal. Desperate, they resort to petty crimes to survive, but soon find themselves embroiled in a turf war that's bigger than they are.

Know How captures the reality of life in foster care from the point of view of those living in it. It's not a documentary nor is it fiction. It's a hybrid approach for using film to create social change. Instead of professional screenwriters and actors, these true stories are written and performed by a cast of ordinary foster care youth, and their performances are powerful, moving, and eye-opening. KNOW HOW is also a musical that brings authentic voices and unseen stories to the screen, and emerged from the efforts of The Possibility Project, a non-profit organization in NYC that brings teenagers together to transform the negative forces in their lives into positive action through projects like this one.

Why make a film by young people in foster care? Because the system doesn't work and the human cost of its dysfunction is too great to ignore. Consider this: a few years after aging out of foster care, only 50% of young people will complete high school or a GED, 60% will be convicted of a crime, 75% will receive public assistance, and only 6% will complete a college degree. The system needs to change.

DVD / 2014 / 106 minutes

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Directed by Jason Cohen

A former neo-Nazi skinhead and the gay victim of his hate crime meet by chance 25 years later, are reconciled and collaborate in educational presentations.

In this Academy Award-nominated short documentary, worlds collide when a former neo-Nazi skinhead and the gay victim of his hate crime attack meet by chance 25 years after the incident that dramatically shaped both of their lives. Together, they embark on a journey of forgiveness that challenges both to grapple with their beliefs and fears, eventually leading to an improbable collaboration...and friendship.

FACING FEAR retraces the haunting accounts of the attack and the startling revelation that brought these men together again. Delving deep into their backgrounds, the roots of the ideologies that shape how they handle the reconciliation process are exposed. Self-doubt, anger and fear are just a few of the emotions they struggle through as they come to terms with their unimaginable situation.

DVD / 2013 / (Grades 9-12, College, Adult) / 23 minutes

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Director: Jane Wells & John-Keith Wasson

Modern-day slavery is alive and well in the United States, as thousands of victims are trafficked across the country to satisfy America's $3-billion-a-year sex trafficking industry. Meet the pimps, the johns, the police, the parents and the victims of the thriving sex trade in Tricked, a comprehensive and daring documentary that uncovers one of America's darkest secrets.

DVD / 2013 / 75 minutes

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Director: Al Reinert

From Oscar-nominated director Al Reinert, An Unreal Dream is the terrifying true story of Michael Morton, who spent over two decades in Texas prisons for a crime he didn't commit.

In 1986, Christine Morton was brutally murdered in front of their only child. After Michael was accused and convicted his son Eric, only three at the time, was raised by family members and eventually cut off all contact with the father he believed had killed his mother.

The Innocence Project, in partnership with John Raley, a Texas attorney working on his first ever criminal case, spent years fighting for DNA testing and investigating possible prosecutorial misconduct in Michael's case. Twenty-five years after the murder, DNA analysis of a bloody blue bandana found near the crime scene not only cleared Michael, but yielded a hit on a known felon who has since been charged with the murder of Christine Morton, along with the murder of another young woman two years later.

Upon his release in late 2011, Michael riveted the outside world with his lack of bitterness or anger. Instead, he reached out to his estranged son, and focused his newfound freedom on the fight for reform. An Unreal Dream tells his story, and sheds needed light on America's flawed criminal justice system.

DVD / 2013 / 92 minutes

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Directed by Marta Cunningham

In 2008, eighth-grader Brandon McInerney shot classmate Larry King at point blank range. Unraveling this tragedy, the film reveals the heartbreaking circumstances that led to the shocking crime as well as the aftermath.

On February 12, 2008, in an Oxnard, California, classroom, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot classmate Larry King twice; Larry died of the wounds two days later. Larry (Leticia), a gender-variant youth of color, had liked to wear makeup and heels to school, and had publicly announced a crush on McInerney. For this reason, some of McInerney's defenders say the victim had "embarrassed" the shooter--and was therefore at least partly to blame for his own murder.

VALENTINE ROAD is about an outrageous crime and an even more outrageous defense of it, but the film goes much deeper than mere outrage. In the end, it's the story of two victims of homophobia. Larry was killed because of it, but Brandon's life was horribly twisted by it as well. And it's the story of a community's response--sometimes inspirational and sometimes cruel--to a terrible tragedy.

Filmmaker Marta Cunningham deftly looks beyond the sensational aspects of the murder, introducing us to Larry's friends, teachers and guardians, as well as Brandon's loved ones--both children had led difficult lives. In examining Brandon's prosecution and defense, the documentary poses difficult questions about punishing juveniles for serious crimes, while exposing society's pervasive and deadly intolerance of young people who don't conform to its gender "norms."

VALENTINE ROAD brilliantly focuses on how bigotry and prejudice are community-wide problems, rather than only the acts of individuals. It asks how schools can respond to the the full complexity of students' lives, and support students in crisis before tragedy strikes.

DVD / 2013 / (Grades 8-12, College, Adult) / 88 minutes

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Director: Stephen Vittoria

Before he was convicted of murdering a policeman in 1981 and sentenced to die, Mumia Abu-Jamal was a gifted journalist and brilliant writer. Now after more than 30 years in prison and despite attempts to silence him, Mumia is not only still alive but continuing to report, educate, provoke and inspire.

Stephen Vittoria's new feature documentary is an inspiring portrait of a man whom many consider America's most famous political prisoner - a man whose existence tests our beliefs about freedom of expression. Through prison interviews, archival footage, and dramatic readings, and aided by a potent chorus of voices including Cornel West, Alice Walker, Dick Gregory, Angela Davis, Amy Goodman and others, this riveting film explores Mumia's life before, during and after Death Row - revealing, in the words of Angela Davis, "the most eloquent and most powerful opponent of the death penalty in the world...the 21st Century Frederick Douglass."

DVD-R / 2012 / 120 minutes

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Directors: David J. Burke, Dave Hagen

This electrifying film documents the efforts of Vincent Bugliosi, one of our nation's foremost prosecutors, as he presents his case that former president George W. Bush should be prosecuted for the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq because he deliberately took our nation to war under false pretenses.

Based on Bugliosi's New York Times bestseller, the movie discloses shocking hidden details of how Bush and his people systematically lied to Congress and the country. He shows incontrovertible evidence that Bush, Cheney, Rice, et al committed a monumental crime under our constitution and the laws of this land. He leads us through a legal understanding of what is needed to bring a formal prosecution, setting the stage for what would be the biggest and most important trial in U.S. history.

DVD / 2012 / 100 minutes

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Directed by Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega

The story of two young Texans accused of intending to firebomb the 2008 Republican National Convention reveals the workings of the post 9/11 security state.

How did two boyhood friends from Midland, Texas wind up arrested on terrorism charges at the 2008 Republican National Convention? BETTER THIS WORLD follows the journey of David McKay (22) and Bradley Crowder (23) from political neophytes to accused domestic terrorists with a particular focus on the relationship they develop with a radical activist mentor in the six months leading up to their arrests. A dramatic story of idealism, loyalty, crime and betrayal, BETTER THIS WORLD goes to the heart of the War on Terror and its impact on civil liberties and political dissent in post-9/11 America.

DVD / 2011 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adult) / 89 minutes

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Directed by Marshall Curry

The Academy Award-nominated story of the radicalization of an environmental activist, from his involvement in and later disillusionment with Earth Liberation Front sabotage, to his eventual arrest by the FBI and incarceration as a domestic terrorist.

In December 2005, Daniel McGowan was arrested by Federal agents in a nationwide sweep of radical environmentalists involved with the Earth Liberation Front-- a group the FBI has called America's "number one domestic terrorism threat."

For years, the ELF--operating in separate anonymous cells without any central leadership--had launched spectacular arsons against dozens of businesses they accused of destroying the environment: timber companies, SUV dealerships, wild horse slaughterhouses, and a $12 million ski lodge at Vail, Colorado.

With the arrest of Daniel and thirteen others, the government had cracked what was probably the largest ELF cell in America and brought down the group responsible for the very first ELF arsons in this country.

IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT, directed by Marshall Curry (Street Fight), tells the remarkable story of the rise and fall of this ELF cell, by focusing on the transformation and radicalization of one of its members.

Part coming-of-age tale, part cops-and-robbers thriller, the film interweaves a verite chronicle of Daniel on house arrest as he faces life in prison, with a dramatic recounting of the events that led to his involvement with the group. And along the way it asks hard questions about environmentalism, activism, and the way we define terrorism.

Drawing from striking archival footage -- much of it never before seen -- and intimate interviews with ELF members, and with the prosecutor and detective who were chasing them, IF A TREE FALLS explores the tumultuous period from 1995 until early 2001 when environmentalists were clashing with timber companies and law enforcement, and the word "terrorism" had not yet been altered by 9/11.

DVD / 2011 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adult) / 85 minutes

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Directed by Jenny Phillips, Anne Marie Stein and Andrew Kukura

An overcrowded maximum-security prison is dramatically changed by the influence of an ancient meditation program.

Behind the high security towers and double row of barbed wire and electrical fence at Donaldson Correction Facility dwells a host of convicts who will never see the light of day. But for some of these men, a spark is ignited when it becomes the first maximum-security prison in North America to hold an extended Vipassana retreat, an emotionally and physically demanding course of silent meditation lasting ten days.

The Dhamma Brothers tells a dramatic tale of human potential and transformation as it closely follows and documents the stories of the prison inmates who enter into this arduous and intensive program. This film, with the power to dismantle stereotypes about men behind prison bars also, in the words of Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking), "gives you hope for the human race."

DVD (Color) / 2007 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adult) / 76 minutes

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