Those of us involved in the criminal justice system have a different perspective from most of the population because we’ve experienced it. We’ve seen things with our own eyes that we would not wish upon our worst enemies.

For those of us who are lucky enough to have never been involved in the criminal justice system, it seems like a gross exaggeration. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard friends say, “come on… that can’t really happen”. But they don’t know the truth.

In recent years, several films, television shows and documentaries have featured the criminal justice system from the inside. I’m not talking crime entertainment like “Law and Order” or “Live PD” (which shows “real” police encounters, when police know they are being filmed… ha!), but the real-life stories of people who have been through the system.

I recently watched the Netflix Series, When they See Us, about the Central Park 5. As I watched the show I felt anxiety, stress and a deep sadness that stayed with me long after I finished watching. I don’t know whether it was PTSD or an identification with the characters that offered a level of empathy that people outside the system can never possibly feel, but it brought me back to a place I was almost two decades ago, when I learned about the criminal justice system from the inside.

Part of me wishes everyone can experience what I’ve been through. Not in a sadistic sense – I just know that if lawmakers and the public had a clue of what really happens – they would change things in a second.

A more realistic wish would be that every lawmaker and the general public be forced to watch certain films that depict the effects of the laws they pass. The effect on the people subjected to them, their families and their communities.

Two MUST SEES are David Feige’s ‘Untouchable‘ (about the sex offender registry) and Eugene Jarecki’s ‘The House I Live In.‘ (about the war on drugs). I’m sure there are many other films worthy of mention, but both of these films, in my opinion, are life changing.

FAC has offered to sponsor public showings of Untouchable and even put together a discussion panel afterwards. If you are connected to a religious congregation, civic group, political organization, educational institution, or any other group that can assemble 50 or more people at a suitable venue, please speak to your group’s leadership to confirm their interest and then contact [email protected] to coordinate.

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