LA Story Project Treatment

Working Title: Homeboys Get Their Groove Back

Log Line: Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention program in the U.S., helps ease a prisoner’s transition back into his/her community (i.e., re-entry) by providing services and classes like tattoo removal, anger management, GED, AA and more.

The focus of my story is the process of re-entry. In today’s economy it’s hard enough to gain employment. Prisoners are at an even greater disadvantage because they have a police record and most have tattoos and lack education. They often have psychological problems and the bad habits of their past must be broken. Sometimes even associating with old friends and family members can be a violation of their parole, if those people are gang affiliated. In light of these pressures, plus the additional new responsibilities of everyday life, it’s easy to see why a high percentage of ex-inmates end up back in prison. It would seem that a missing — but logical — step is the creation/existence of programs to help prisoners transition into mainstream society. That’s where Homeboy Industries is gaining huge ground and making a name for itself. They offer assistance in all areas of life, from yoga and Baby & Me classes to job training and career development. People are visiting Homeboy from all over the world to learn about their program.

I want to speak with one or more people who illustrate the fact that being helped with re-entry is the key to them staying out of prison. How does homeboy help, pragmatically, emotionally and psychologically? What are the hurdles the Homeboys face when re-entering their communities? What are the thoughts going through their heads when they first get out of prison? Does it seem easy to get caught up and sent back to prison? If possible, I also want to explore the idea of having to comply with society’s rules. I am assuming many of these ex-prisoners are rule breakers. How does it feel to abide by the rules? Is it easy? Or is it tough to try to be a “good” citizen? There are a bunch of classes meeting on Thursday when we visit Homeboy. One is anger management. I would be extremely interested to sit in and hear what the participants have to say. Many are probably angry they were in prison and angry they are having trouble upon release. And most may have been angry before they were arrested. Does anger management  play a big role in re-entry? I also think it would be fascinating to observe the yoga and physical training classes. Not only to see homeboys doing yoga but also to ask how they feel about the concept of space and body movement. Did being in prison make them think differently about their bodies, space and movement?

My stylistic approach is that of an observer. I will do face-on interviews but also try to catch people in their element, such as in the anger management and yoga classes. I will weave interviews with b-roll of the activities in the bustling Homeboy building and the classes to tell the story of the challenges people face when re-entering society. My point of view is from the homeboy’s/girl’s perspective.

I think this is a hot topic right now because California has the highest recidivism rate in the country. Also, on May 24, 2011, the Los Angeles Times wrote that, “The court gave the state two years to shrink the number of prisoners by more than 33,000.” Many people agree that the logical way to accomplish this is by reducing the recidivism rate and assisting with re-entry.  While some people view Homeboy as a drain on resources, it’s hard to deny their success stories.

The story of re-entry could be aided by visual statistics, possibly facts written over an image of the Homeboy building, etc., in the background. The facts that stand out to me are:

* California has the highest recidivism rate in the country.

*  “The court gave the state two years to shrink the number of prisoners by more than 33,000.” Los Angeles Times

* 700,000 prisoners re-enter U.S. society each year. About 1/2 of those released in the U.S. will be locked up again within three years.

* One in every 53 American adults is either on probation or parole.

* 75% of prisoners under 24 return to incarceration.

UPDATE: After today’s pitch session and meeting with my adviser I am thinking about switching gears to the Baby & Me class on Friday morning. This topic seems especially important because many of the participants may not have had parents around and/or may have been locked up for part/all of their kid’s life. Focusing on good parenting skills might also break the cycle of absentee and neglectful parents. Celeste gave us this statistic: One in every 28 children in the U.S. has a parent behind bars. This story would also have impactful visuals.

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