When someone is sentenced to prison, they aren’t the only one doing hard time. The people who wait for them at home — their friends, their family, their loved ones — also experience the hardships of incarceration. That’s the message behind the film “Locked Out,” created through the hard work of Citizens for Prison Reform with the help of grants from University Lutheran Church of East Lansing and the Mackie family.
“We wanted to make this film, so that the general public, our leaders and policy makers in Michigan could have a better understanding of what families actually go through when they have an incarcerated loved one,” Citizens for Prison Reform Founder Lois Pullano said. She is also a founder and member of the Family Advisory Board to the Michigan Department of Corrections and the founder of the Family Participation Program.
“This documentary shows the strength of prisoner families, they share how much stronger they have become because of this difficult journey they have endured. They also share that they also didn’t have any idea what dealing with incarceration was like, nor did it matter to them – until they were impacted,” Lois said.”
It’s a lesson she knows all too well. Pullano became involved in the criminal justice reform movement after her son became incarcerated. She’s raised concern over such things as Michigan’s anti-substance use prison visitation policies, which preclude family visits if an incarcerated person had two or more substance abuse violations, and against the number of people we currently have held in some form of segregation or solitary confinement. She also called attention to the spike in death rates among incarcerated people in Michigan in 2018.
Citizens for Prison Reform will be holding its next monthly meeting on Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Calvary Lutheran Church, 6301 W. St. Joseph Highway in Lansing, where the Legislative Ombudsman to the Michigan Department of Corrections, Keith Barber, will be the featured guest. The meeting begins at 10:45 with refreshments and lasts until 1 p.m.
Safe & Just Michigan Outreach Director Troy Rienstra attended a recent screening of the film in Detroit, and it left him reflective of how his own time in prison affected both himself and his family.
It was a given that being incarcerated for more than 25 years drastically changed the course of his life, he said. But he came to understand that it had just as powerful effect on his parents, too.
“They struggled with guilt and shame,” he said. “They were restricted to 10 years of no visitation. You (the MDOC) is punishing individuals for their behavior, but you’re punishing families even more.”
Rienstra said it was unusual to see a documentary that put the families of incarcerated people in such sharp focus. Most other documentaries deal primarily with the people who are incarcerated themselves.
“There are a lot of untold stories that need to be heard,” he said. “And I liked how it was hopeful — it shows how families are working together to address these problems. We have each other.”
Pullano said the film isn’t available to watch online because she hopes to have it shown at some film festivals before it’s made widely available. However, a preview can be seen at https://vimeo.com/380363563. She also invited people interested in hosting a viewing to contact CPR’s Community Outreach Organizer, Tiffany Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.