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Life After Life    cover photo

Life After Life 2017


Distributed by Passion River Films, 154 Mt. Bethel Rd., Warren, NJ 07059; 732-321-0711
Produced by Tamara Perkins
Directed by Tamara Perkins
DVD, color, 88 min.

General Adult
Correctional Institutions, Criminal Justice, Family Relations, Jails, Prison Reform, Prisoners, Prisons, Racism

Date Entered: 06/26/2018

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

According to the Sentencing Project, the U.S. leads the world in prison and jail incarceration. Of the more than 2.2 million people who are currently imprisoned, nearly 163,000 are serving life sentences. Although many may eventually be paroled, adjusting to life on the outside is very difficult. For those who spent years behind bars, especially those who entered the prison system as young adults, life after imprisonment presents a set of challenges for which few are prepared. For every three lifers paroled, two will return to prison within a few years.

To illustrate these deplorable statistics, filmmaker and activist Perkins profiles three men released from California’s San Quentin prison. Unable to join his family in Hawaii while on parole, Harrison, 37, goes to a half-way house in Oakland, CA, where he must learn how to navigate public transportation, internet technology, and college. After 30 years in prison, Noel, 47, returns to his sister’s home in Stockton. He struggles to establish personal relationships with his parents, children, and girlfriend. Chris, the youngest of the trio, spent 10 years in prison on drug charges. With a girlfriend, daughter, and baby on the way, Chris makes just enough money to make ends meet but no more.

Perkins’ verité style, combined with personal narratives, photos and family stories, make clear: 1) institutionalized racism in the U.S. makes life imprisonment nearly inevitable for children of color, and 2) the U.S. prison system fails to prepare prisoners for life after prison, doing little more than serving as warehouses for its incarcerated populations. Recommended for criminal justice and sociology programs.