8.1/10
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5 user 10 critic

The Work (2017)

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Set inside a single room in Folsom Prison, three men from the outside participate in a four-day group-therapy retreat with a group of incarcerated men for a real look at the challenges of rehabilitation.

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2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Set inside a single room in Folsom Prison, three men from the outside participate in a four-day group-therapy retreat with a group of incarcerated men for a real look at the challenges of rehabilitation.

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8 September 2017 (UK)  »

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Filmed in 2009. See more »

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A Compelling Intense Documentary about a Prison Therapy Program
15 March 2017 | by (Austin, TX, United States) – See all my reviews

The Work was extremely well-received during its world premiere at Austin SXSW Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize in Documentary Feature Competition. This is one of the most intense films that you will ever see and it literally takes your breath away. It is follows several prisoners – many serving long sentences for violent, often gang-related, crimes - in a group therapy program at Folsom Prison over a four-day period in which they push each other to confront their demons. They discuss their betrayals which often involve deep-seated and painful issues in their family lives. They confront each physically and emotionally. They open up the darkest corners of their lives so that outside observers can understand that much of the anger that made them criminals comes from deep well-springs of personal suffering and often abuse.

Indirectly, this film asks a very deep question about our criminal justice system: Is it supposed to warehouse and punish offenders or is it supposed to rehabilitate them to return to society? If it is the former it is doing so at a very great cost. If it is the latter than we need to invest in programs like this so that we can return these men to as productive members of society. This film shows us what rehabilitation looks like and subtly makes that argument. We need a national conversation about how the criminal justice system is failing and about how we can begin to repair it. We have begun discussing some aspects of this complex problem including reconsidering the "War on Drugs," but we also need to be discussing how to rehabilitate those currently imprisoned as well. I hope that it gains distribution so that a wider audience can see this powerful and compelling film and begin this conversation about the criminal justice system.


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