Criminal Justice Professor and Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Paul Sutton’s newest film, “Prison Through Tomorrow’s Eyes,” was named Best Educational Documentary at the Jersey Shore Film Festival in late July.
The 82-minute documentary reveals the truth behind stereotypes about California’s corrections facilities and the men and women who live and work behind bars.
About the documentary
"Prison Through Tomorrow's Eyes" follows one of Sutton’s criminal justice classes as students tour and interact with prisoners, guards and wardens in seven of California’s 33 prison facilities, as well as Delancey Street, a privately funded and operated residential rehabilitation facility.
Inspired by feedback from students who have toured prisons in the past with Sutton, the film was designed to capture the experience for students who could not attend, as well as for family members of those on the tour and the public, whose exposure to prison is limited largely to sensational Hollywood treatments.
“So many of the students would return home (from the prison tour) and say the experience changed their lives,” Sutton said. “But their families just could not believe the stories the students would tell.”
In the film, students are seen preparing to enter a prison — removing piercings, metal belt-buckles and gang colors. The women are advised to wear a non-underwire bra.
I never realized how far from reality the students were in their understanding of crime, criminals and criminal justice until I actually took them behind bars to see and deal with those realities face to face.
In later scenes, students sit in a circle with prisoners who are serving life sentences for murder. The students ask the prisoners about their experiences in prison, and are surprised to watch one prisoner tearfully explain how his wife committed suicide as a result of his crime and subsequent incarceration. Following this exchange, the students remark on the humanity they find inside the prison.
The film is now touring the film festival circuit and will appear in limited engagements on television in the U.S. and abroad. It may appear in another dozen film festivals through the end of the year, and has been submitted to Cannes and Sundance for screening consideration in early 2012.
To watch the "Prison Through Tomorrow's Eyes" trailer, click here.
Not the first time
In the last 28 years, Sutton has taken more than 2,000 students and alumni on the tour.
“I never realized how far from reality the students were in their understanding of crime, criminals and criminal justice until I actually took them behind bars to see and deal with those realities face to face,” Sutton said.