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America's Brutal Prisons
Directed by Nick London
Reporter: Deborah Davies
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The recent Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal shocked the American public. But they might be even more stunned to discover that strikingly similar violence occurs inside prisons throughout the United States, where prisoners are routinely abused, even tortured, by prison guards.

TORTURE: AMERICA'S BRUTAL PRISONS visits correctional institutions in Texas, Florida and California, uncovering penal systems with deeply ingrained cultures of punishment, rather than rehabilitation.

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The film features actual videos recorded by prison surveillance cameras and correction officers themselves, which reveal incidents in which inmates are brutalized, often for minor infractions, with stun guns, tasers, dangerous restraining devices, attack dogs, chemical sprays, and beatings by guards. These disturbing scenes are supplemented by interviews with former prisoners, a warden, a prison doctor, inmates' relatives, attorneys, and footage from a California Senate inquiry and a murder trial of four guards.

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Although many prisons denied permission to film inside their facilities, a rare glimpse behind the walls is offered by interviews with former correctional officers who have broken the "green wall" code of silence and become whistleblowers. They testify about the regular practice of cover-ups of corruption and violence, as well as the brutality and vindictiveness of fellow guards.

This rare look inside our correctional system is a reminder that most of us are not only unaware of what occurs inside America's prisons, but, if truth be told, we are also largely unconcerned with what goes on there. This documentary will hopefully help to awaken the American public conscience about this scandalous and shameful situation.

"Riveting! Disturbing yet fascinating."—Contemporary Justice Review

"A poweful antitdote to our tendency to overlook and tolerate the mistreatment of the powerless, the criminal, and the mentally ill. It invites us to consider not only what attitudes might be driving these tendencies, but also to pause to recognize their full consequences. [This film is] a must for those who could claim to speak and write knowingly of corrections in the U.S. today."—Bridges Journal

"Recommended! A thorough look into three penal systems in the states of Texas, Florida, and California. The unique blend of interview and investigative techniques enhances the reality experienced by the viewer."—Educational Media Reviews Online

"A hair-raising account of official brutality in U.S. correctional facilities. Many of the images in the film are hard to watch, and harder to forget."—

2006 United Nations Association Film Festival
2006 American Sociological Association Film Festival

48 minutes / color
Release: 2005
Copyright: 2005
Sale: $298

Subject areas:
American Studies, Civil Rights, Corrections, Criminal Justice, Ethics, Human Rights, Law

Related Titles:
Ghosts of Attica: The definitive account of America's most violent prison rebellion, its deadly suppression, the days of torture that ensued, and the almost 30 year legal case that followed.

Profits of Punishment: A critical look at America's booming private prison industry.

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Last Updated August 17, 2015
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