Aman who returned to life after prison and the filmmaker who documented it talked about their Tribeca Film Fest award-winning documentary The Return during Thursday’s edition of NewsOne Now with guest host Van Jones. 

The film follows the personal stories of several formerly incarcerated individuals as they transition back into life after prison, which at times can prove to be extremely difficult.

Despite boasts of being the best country with the most opportunities, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Out of 100,000 people in America, 716 are currently behind bars and sadly, there are a disproportionate number of African-Americans serving time in our nation’s prison industrial complex.

Though Blacks make up just 13 percent of the United States population, 39 percent of those incarcerated are African-Americans. Many of them are being detained for non-violent offenses.

About The Return from TheReturnProject.com

Designed to engage audiences past the viewing of the film alone, THE RETURN PROJECT is the vehicle through which supporters of THE RETURN can take actions to cerate impact and help reform our broken criminal justice system. This dynamic engagement and impact campaign includes a series of short films for the New York Times, Mother Jones and others; an interactive multimedia archive with audio, video, stills and text; educational curricula; a photo essay, and more with the overarching goal of telling stories and informing audiences via a range of perspectives: the incarcerated and recently released; their family members; those who work in the criminal justice system including judges and attorneys; reentry providers and experts; students; policy makers and more. THE RETURN PROJECT will illuminate the systemic problems that have led to unprecedented incarceration rates and will illuminate healthier, saner alternatives from mental health courts to sentencing reform to viable reentry programs and plans.

Katie Galloway, producer and director of The Return, explained all of the stories she’s told until recently have been horror stories” chronicling “the use of informants in the drug war, about the over incarceration of people of color, mental health, drug addiction — things that should be treated as public health issues.”  

The Return allowed her to tell “the good news.” Upon hearing the “Three Strikes” amendment was going to be voted on, she decided to follow it with her film partner Kelly Duane de la Vega. When the legislation passed to scale back “sentences of the currently incarcerated,” Galloway and her film partner decided to follow the rollout of the ballot initiative as well.

Kevin Bilal Chatman, who was sentenced to 150 years-to-life sentence under California’s “Three Strikes” law for selling $200 worth of drugs to an undercover police officer, shared why he allowed cameras to follow him after becoming eligible for release.

Chatman, who was released three years ago, said, “I thought it was imperative that I was able to show what has been going on with us in mass incarceration — I was sentenced to six life sentences plus 150 years for a relatively minor offense.” 

He continued, “It was imperative to show that it was difficult for me ’cause I didn’t want to be judged for what I used to be. I wanted to be defined for what I am today, not what I was before.”

Watch NewsOne Now guest host Van Jones, Katie Galloway, and Kevin Bilal Chatman discuss the new documentary The Return in the video clip above.

TV One’s NewsOne Now has moved to 7 A.M. ET, be sure to watch “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin, in its new time slot on TV One.

Subscribe to the “NewsOne Now” Audio Podcast on iTunes.

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