Since I Been Down
Gilda Sheppard, 105 minutes, USA
In 1993, Washington State voters passed the three-strikes law and sent children considered irredeemable super-predators to prison for life without parole. Influenced by the national drug war frenzy, escalating crime, and gang activity, during the fear-based political policies of the 1980’s and ‘90’s, Tacoma, Washington sacrificed their most-vulnerable children.
The city’s lack of both social services and targeted investments in early education; the increasing inequality in housing and employment, and the culture of punishment (including no-parole, three-strikes, hard-time for armed-crime, and other excessive sentencing laws), stained the Tacoma landscape and destined these children to live their lives out behind bars.
Thrown into prison not for education or rehabilitation but for removal and punishment (out of sight, out of mind), these children, who are now adults, could not be silenced. Together they built a prisoners’ community of healing that extended beyond prison walls.
A dramatic story of how gangs, fear, and power arrested the development of one American community– and how in their rush to discard the poorest, and targeting brown and black youth for a false sense of safety, security and prosperity, an entire generation disappeared — Since I Been Down spotlights prisoner Kimonti Carter, and follows his efforts as well as a wide group of prisoners, as they break free from their fate and create a model of education that is transforming their lives, their communities, our prisons, and our own humanity.