Thursday, April 9, 2009

Two more criminal justice documentaries

In response to my previous post about two documentaries about the prison system in America and in Argentina, my colleague Matt Kelley from's Criminal Justice blog pointed me to two more recent documentaries.

One is Witch Hunt, which has been popping up quite a bit in my Google Reader lately. The documentary tells the stories of regular people who were wrongfully accused, convicted, and sentenced to prison for horrific sexual crimes that they never committed:

Executive Producer Sean Penn presents "Witch Hunt," the story of John Stoll and dozens of other men and women who found themselves ensnared in a spiral of fear, ignorance and hysteria. These working-class moms and dads were rounded up with little or no evidence, charged and convicted of almost unimaginable crimes. Years later, they would find freedom again, but their lives would be changed forever.
Witch Hunt will air on MSNBC this Sunday, April 12, at 10 PM.

The second documentary is Dhamma Brothers. Dhamma Brothers follows the inmates of Donaldson Correctional Institution near Birmingham, Alabama. Donaldson became the first prison in the nation to conduct an extended Vipassana retreat, which entailed physically and emotionally demanding Buddhist meditation for ten days. It bears some striking similarities to Unit 25 (Unidad 25), which I blogged about before, about a prisoner who trades the "customary horrors" of prison for embracing Christianity while on the inside. It's fascinating to see these stories told about a spiritual awakening that takes place inside prison, and the profound effects it can have on inmates.

At least, these stories are a variation on the trite tale of the convict who "finds Jesus" or converts to Islam inside prison: spirituality in the big house is nothing new, except for when it's told in a whole new way in these films.

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