DOKUMENTART // Mass Incarceration: Short Films

Mass incarceration is one of the most important human rights issues of our time. Slowly, we are paying more attention as a society to the high financial and social costs of imprisonment, often for nonviolent drug crimes, and the racial imbalance in sentencing. However, there are many aspects of mass incarceration that are getting less attention than they deserve. These include: the impact of mass incarceration on children and families; the failure of our prisons to provide quality care to those with mental illness; and the tragic lack of quality rehabilitative programs for those incarcerated.

More than 2.7 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent and approximately 10 million children have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives. Children whose parents are in prison have difficulty visiting and often lose contact. They drop out of school more frequently and are more likely to be incarcerated than their peers. Black children are seven times more likely than white children to have an incarcerated parent. Separation due to a parent’s incarceration is complicated by stigma, ambiguity, and a lack of social support and compassion. In Washington, DC and Philadelphia, I worked closely with my wife, Gabriela Bulisova, and our friend, Michelle Repiso, to create the series, “Locked Apart: The Impact of Mass Incarceration on Families,” which tells the stories of children who have become collateral damage in our rush to incarcerate more people than any other nation in the world. Many of these stories have accompanying still image galleries that can be viewed here.

The impact of mass incarceration permeates our society, affecting tens of millions of people. In “Six Voices,” I collaborated with Gabriela and Michelle to humanize those affected by our criminal justice system by telling their intimate stories. This film is currently on view at Eastern State Penitentiary Museum in Philadelphia, PA, as part of the nation’s first exhibition on mass incarceration by a major museum.

In “Songs in the Key of Free,” we document the outstanding benefits of restoring music programs for those incarcerated at State Correctional Institute – Graterford, a maximum security prison in Pennsylvania. The film highlights their exuberant creation of original songs and performances, which have been featured both inside and outside the prison and will be available as an album.


Locked Apart: The Koger-Harris Family

For still images of the Koger Harris Family, please click here.


Locked Apart: Kiya

For still images of Kiya and her foster family, please click here.


Locked Apart: The Walden-Dickson Family

For still images of the Walden-Dickson family, please click here.


Six Voices

(From the exhibition “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” on view at Eastern State Penitentiary Museum in Philadelphia, PA)


Songs in the Key of Free