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Common Reading Program Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement

Library Films Available Now!

The WSU library system has several films on hold for instructors to use for Common Reading instruction in class. This listing will be updated as more videos become available.


Frontline Documentaries

A number of “Frontline” documentaries from television and additional resources on criminal justice are available online at http://www.pbs.org. The archive includes the search term “criminal justice.” Eight of these documentaries are:

  • “The Real CSI” (2012, 52 min) on the reliability of forensic science.
  • ” Stick-up Kid” (2014, 28 min) on what happens when juvenile offenders placed into adult prisons, featuring the story of Alonza Thomas who served a 13-year sentence for a botched armed robbery. Thomas is the older brother of NFL safety Phillip Thomas.
  • “The New Asylums” (2005, 116 min) on nearly 500,000 persons with mental illness serving time in U.S. jails and prisons; and The Released (2009, 54 min), a follow-up documentary which looks at what happens to the mentally ill after they are released, profiling the fates of some of those covered in the 2005 documentary; and “The Released” (2009, 54 min), a follow-up documentary looking at what happens to the mentally ill after they are released , profiling the fates of some of those covered in “The New Asylums.”
  • “Lost in Detention” (2011, 53 min) on the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants. (Also available on DVD from WSU-Vancouver.)
  • “Prison State” (2014,82 min), which follows the path of four people caught up in the cycle of Kentucky’s criminal justice system. The four—two teenage girls and two adult men—come from Beecher Terrace, a housing project where one out of every six people cycle in and out of prison every year. Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson is among those who provide commentary for this film. The website includes a 9-minute encapsulation of one of the teenage girl’s stories that would be easy to use in a classroom setting, as well as a variety of other resources. This film is one of a pair of films on the criminal justice system; the second, “Solitary Nation” (53 min) is a shocking and brutal look at solitary confinement in a Maine prison, available at the same website.
  • Death by Fire” (2010, 53 min) on the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham and the death penalty debate.

“Out in the Night”

(2014), Dir. Blair Doroshwalther, 75 min., WSU DVD 4600

In 2006, under the neon lights of a gay-friendly neighborhood in New York City, a group of African-American lesbians were violently threatened by a man on the street.  The women fought back and were later charged with gang assault and attempted murder. The tabloids quickly dubbed them a gang of “Killer Lesbians” and a “Wolf Pack.” Three pleaded guilty to avoid a trial, but the remaining four maintained their innocence. This award-winning documentary examines the sensational case and the women’s uphill battle, revealing the role that race, gender, and sexuality play in our criminal justice system.


“Slavery by Another Name”

(2012), Dir. Sam Pollard, 90 min., WSU DVD 4599

This film challenges one of our country’s most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery ended with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Spanning history over eight decades (1865-1945), this documentary recounts how the criminal justice system allowed insidious new forms of forced labor to emerge in the American South that kept hundreds of thousands of African-Americans in bondage. The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Wall Street Journal writer Douglas Blackman, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil Way to World War II. See http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/pbs-film/ for additional resources and information.


“Broken on All Sides: Race, Mass Incarceration, and New Visions for Criminal Justice in the U.S.”

(2013), Dir. Matthew Pillisher, 68 min, WSU DVD 3905

This documentary centers around author Michelle Alexander’s theory, presented in her groundbreaking book The New Jim Crow: mass incarceration is a new caste system in America that is enacted through the rise of the drug war, “tough on crime” policies, discretion and bias in policing and sentencing, and the legal discrimination of those with criminal records in almost every aspect of citizenship. See http://brokenonallsides.com for more on this film.


“The House I Live In”

(2013), Dir. Eugene Jarecki, 108 min, WSU DVD 4448

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Documentaries at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, this documentary by award-winning filmmaker Eugene Jarecki traces the history of the drug war to examine the causes and effects of the drug laws from multiple perspectives—dealers, users, families, guards, lawyers, and judges. The film includes commentary by David Simon, creator of The Wire; sociologist and WSU alumnus William Julius Wilson; and Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow. Special features include 2-to-3-minute spots on overcrowding, self-soothing, private prisons, jury nullification, and how work defines us. See www.thehouseilivein.org for additional resources.


“TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD”

(1963), Dir. Robert Mulligan, 129 min, WSU DVD 2311

Based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of 1961, the film portrays Atticus Finch, a lawyer in a racially divided Alabama town in the 1930s. Finch, whose portrayal by Gregory Peck earned him an Academy Award, agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Considered a classic American film, To Kill a Mockingbird is connected as well to Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. Monroeville, Alabama, the home town of Harper Lee and the basis for the fictional town of Maycomb that is the setting for To Kill a Mockingbird, is also the location where Stevenson’s death-row client Walter McMillian was unjustly accused and tried for murder of a white girl. Stevenson helped to exonerate McMillian, who was released from prison in 2003 after six years on death row. Stevenson points out that while Monroeville proudly celebrates its connection to the novel and film To Kill a Mockingbird, even turning the courthouse into a museum and hosting an annual performance of a theatrical version of the story, the town remained blind to contemporary racial injustices in its administration of justice.