DCTV’s ‘Confines That Bind’ screening series explores incarceration and criminal justice reform through documentary film in their landmark firehouse in downtown Manhattan. POV‘s season-opening film The Return turned the conversation towards what happens when a prison sentence comes to an end. The screening of the documentary, which examines the complicated reentry process for formerly incarcerated Americans, was followed by a panel and Q&A session that contextualized the issue and brought it back to the local New York setting.
Aubrey Gallegos, Community Engagement and Education Director at POV, moderated the panel discussion with the film’s producer Ariella Ben-Dov, Wesley Caines from Brooklyn Defender Services, and Jule Hall from Picture Motion. Caines and Hall provided a unique take on the reentry process, as Caines currently works to create a more effective reentry program and Hall, having been incarcerated at 17, dedicates his time to increasing reentry awareness and working with at-risk youth.
The panel began with Ben-Dov’s discussion of how the directors, Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega, came to make the documentary about California’s “Three Strikes” law, mass incarceration, and the reentry process. She explained, “Who does this affect? Not only the incarcerated but also families and communities…We wanted to put a face, a community, to these dry statistics that the public and legislature often glaze over.”
Hall, who was only ten months into the reentry process when he joined Picture Motion, the marketing and advocacy firm for The Return, discussed the impact of the documentary on his life: “It gave me a tool through which I could analyze my own reentry process.” He also identified the three greatest challenges of the reentry process—employment, mental health, and housing—reminding audience members, “Many of us have the ambition to be productive members of society, but as soon as you mention you’re incarcerated, there’s a gate that comes down…We need society to help us put our past behind us.”
Drawing from his own experiences with economically disadvantaged clients at BDS, Caines echoed these statements, saying, “The idea of reentry is really a myth. It’s asking people without any rehabilitation to come home after decades to be in society and function…We need to think about how our prison spaces contribute to rehabilitation.”
As the discussion came to a close, Ben-Dov asked the audience to consider their power to help those reentering society from prison. “Do you hire people, does your boss? Encourage them to seek out returning citizens.” As Hall put it, “It’s a myth to believe you can just lock someone up and throw away the key.”