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Since I Been Down (an upcoming documentary film)

A conversation with award-winning filmmaker, Gilda Sheppard.

Gilda Louise Sheppard was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. She is an award-winning filmmaker whose documentaries include stories of resilience of Liberian women and children refugees in Ghana; three generations of Black families in an urban neighborhood; and a film ethnography of stories from folklore started by Zora Neale Hurston in Alabama's AfricanTown. She is currently working on Since I Been Down, a film that captures issues related to education, organizing, and healing developed and led by women and men in Washington's state prison. Sheppard works as a volunteer teacher in prisons and is a sociology professor at Evergreen Street College in Tacoma, Washington.

Since I Been Down

By releasing this film, Sheppard hopes to highlight the long-term impact of mass incarceration on public health. Since I Been Down showcases the city of Tacoma, Washington as an example of "Every Town, USA." In 1993, Washington state voters passed the three-strikes law, which significantly increases prison sentences of persons convicted of a felony who have previously been convicted of two or more violent crimes or serious felonies. Additionally, the three-strikes law limits the ability of these offenders to receive any punishment that is not a life sentence. In an era characterized by the War on Drugs, escalating crime, and gang activity, Tacoma sacrificed its most vulnerable children to fear-based political policies. Here at The Justice Beat Talk Show, we are working collaboratively with Sheppard to showcase the full film via our platform during season 4.

"Out of sight, out of mind."

Throwing children and adolescents into prisons punishes them by removing them from society rather than educating and helping them from a rehabilitation standpoint. It's no secret that this system is failing, and it's failing hard. With this film, Sheppard aims to:

  • Bring parole back and implement a Community Review Board, redefine eligibility in targeted states

  • Change juvenile sentencing laws in targeted states

  • Reduce recidivism rates by providing inspiration and education programs in adult and juvenile correction facilities

  • Change punitive suspension and expulsion practices

  • Scale student-centered, culturally relevant K-12 curriculum and teacher training

  • Change mandatory minimum sentencing requirements by developing a mechanism for District Attorneys and community organizations to review the consequences

Check out this week's episode at:


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