Monday, April 18, 2016
Ariela on The Return (2016) Tribeca 2016
I had been unfamiliar with the awful California law called the “Three Strikes” until I saw this film. The law gave a life sentence for almost any crime, no matter what the crime was, if it was your third offense. Kenneth had been in jail for 11 years for stealing a purse. Bilal was in in jail 14 years for selling $200 worth of drugs to an undercover cop. They both had received 25 to life sentences. 10,000 people had been sentenced to life by the “Three Strikes” law
In 2012, 18 years after the law was enacted, citizens voted to shorten sentences of those in jail. They all had to go before the judge again who decided if they were a danger to society. In the first 8 months where the law was reversed, over 1,000 lifers were released. But where would they go? What would they do?
All of those released are expected to find their way on their own, which is difficult after being in jail for so many years. Many(and probably the majority) who are released have severe trauma from being in prison and need professional help. Addiction and mental illness are the main problem with those in jail, and there’s no programs to help them, there aren’t enough resources and if anything, being in jail makes it worse for these people.
Mike Romano founded a program called The Three Strikes Project to help people re-enter society through a series of programs. The documentary follows Kevin and Bilal and how they cope with being back. We see their family life, employment and being back in the real world.
This film is so important to see and very much a timely piece. It makes you angry and sad at our society. I wish there were more stories that could be covered. It would be nice to maybe become a TV show where they document different people each week. These men, like thousands of others, don’t deserve to be in jail for 10+ years for small crimes. It would be one thing if someone murdered someone to get 25 to life..but for stealing a purse? There is a need for prison for the right people, but this film makes you wonder how is it effective for these petty crimes.