Mission: To tell the experiences of New York City’s Rikers Island through the voices of those who have been incarcerated there.
Background: Of the nearly 7,500 inmates jailed on Rikers Island each day, almost forty percent have not been found guilty or innocent of the crimes they are charged with. And as they await trial, they are at risk of being victimized by the culture of violence that is endemic to the complex. Many are stuck in limbo there because they or their families cannot afford bail, while forty percent have received a mental health diagnosis. In the first documentary of its kind, journalist Bill Moyers asks half a dozen people who have been incarcerated on Rikers to tell their stories on camera, providing a vivid and disturbing description of the Rikers experience — from entry, to the oppressive interaction with corrections officers, to the inhumanity of solitary confinement, to the challenge of returning to the outside world after months and even years of incarceration. In June 2015, the City of New York agreed to a settlement over widespread abuses at Rikers that included the appointment of a federal monitor, limits on the use of force by guards, and the installation of thousands of surveillance cameras. Criminal justice advocates continue to push for a complete shutdown of the complex, which at the time of filming remained on the table subject to a final determination by an independent commission.
Outstanding Web Features: The homepage for the film provides access to a short synopsis of and trailer for the film; a video introduction by Bill Moyers, who executive produced the film; links to commentaries by Michelle Alexander, author of the best-selling book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, and Glenn E. Martin, founder and president of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA), an organization dedicated to cutting the correctional population in the U.S. half by 2030; and the complete film itself. The rest of site is divided into three sections: Think, which provides links to additional Rikers reporting from the Web, an FAQ, and reactions to the film from viewers; Act, which provides information on how visitors to the site can get involved or host a screening of their own; and Media, which provides a summary of media coverage of the film and a listing of media resources. Those interested in additional information and conversation, can follow the film on Twitter and Facebook.