Survivor's Guide to Prison (Film): Entertaining and tragic in ways

in documentary •  3 months ago 

Survivors Guide to Prison is a movie that showcases primarily the problems with the judicial system in the United States and of course the absurd situation with the prison industrial complex. It points out some tips on what to do if you are arrested and the best way to not get screwed over by the system. It also focuses on a couple of cases of people that were wrongfully convicted and the tragic story associated with them.


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The film gives some solid advice and a lot of that is tragic and of course the stories about the people who were wrongfully convicted and given multiple year sentences for a crime that (in hindsight) it is quite obvious they did not commit was scary, entertaining, and informative.


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A great deal of the documentary is narrated by Danny Trejo, who if you are not aware was in prison an awful lot of his early life and this is where he became a championship boxer and then got noticed at first for television and movie bit roles, later arising to the A-list (ish) fame that he has today.

I think the entire film is harrowing but I also don't like certain tactics that they employed during it. They present a few people who are innocent and of course that is tragic, but then they conflate statistics and don't mention certain aspects in their reporting to try to make some sort of message that "most people in prison are innocent" (they don't directly say this, but the message is in there) and I have a real problem with that sort of message.

They also give half messages, which without the other half aren't really proof of anything at all

Some examples include saying that (insert whatever race here) are disproportionately represented in the prison system without mentioning that (insert whatever race here) maybe, just maybe, is disproportionately committing more crimes.

Also they will say things like "people who don't post bail are 3 times as likely to be convicted in court." They don't even mention that the most heinous situations are often not allowed bail or will have bail set so high that posting bond isn't an option. The only connection they try to make here is that "the prison system is IN ON IT with the bail bondsmen."

There is no doubt in my mind that the prison system in the United States is deeply, very deeply flawed. I am not going to try to defend that. However, this documentary goes a bit too far by not actually presenting all sides and I think that if they had, it still would have had its impact.

I am reminded of a environmentalist fella I know who would routinely post pictures of the sky in Thailand when it was stormy to suggest that this was "pollution." Thailand is polluted. He didn't need to wait until it was about to rain to prove his point but since he sensationalized a situation it took away credibility from his message. I feel as though this tactic was used frequently in Survivors Guide to Prison. I also don't like it when certain celebrities, many of who have exactly zero experience with the U.S. Prison system, try to become a mouthpiece for the cause.

Anyway, I feel as though this is worth seeing and is definitely good information, but feel as though they lose a little bit of effect in their message by intentionally withholding information (which, ironically, is one of the tactics they suggest you use to avoid going to prison in the first place.)

On a scale of "Urgh!" to "Wowsers!" I give Survivors Guide to Prison an overall rating of....


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The sad thing is people watch stuff like this and then the go forward assuming it is absolute fact. They don't question or investigate it at all as you have. The people that make these shows count on that and they just move forward with them knowing they are going to convince a lot of people about their thinking. I think Making a Murder was the catalyst for a lot of the shows like this.

Yeah, i get upset when a few rare examples are presented and treated as the norm. Prison sucks, but for the most part there is a really fantastic way to avoid going there!

In fact I like programs or movies related to prisons being more exciting

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