A couple of weeks ago, I saw The Throwaways at a theatre in Albany, NY. The documentary is filmed in Albany and highlights one of the biggest issues of our time: the mass incarceration and profiling of minorities in this country. The film tells the story of Ira McKinley, who shares his past of incarceration and his current life as a filmmaker in the South End of Albany.
McKinley’s passion to do good in the world is clear through his filmmaking, yet no one hired him when he was released from prison because he had to check the box that labeled him a felon on the job application. He faced challenges such as needing food stamps, yet not being eligible because of his record. This story is not a new one. Many people out of prison cannot get jobs so they cannot support themselves. It is a scary trap that many people know nothing about; from the lack of necessary support to the oppression of parole. In Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, parole is explained as a way to legally discriminate against people of color. Alexander writes:
“Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination-employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service-are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it” (Alexander, 2011).
Even after the official punishment (prison time) ends, that individual is stigmatized for life. Government aid is held from ex-convicts, which includes loans to go to school. This article also points out that without all of these necessary support systems, the person usually turns back to crime, the only viable option.
Can you imagine trying to support yourself or your family after getting out of prison with no support systems? How about trying to better yourself, but having no means of doing so because no one will hire you or because you can’t take out loans for an education? There is a message being sent here, and it’s very clear: the system was built against people of color.The United States is still running on Jim Crow laws and regulations, and our booming prison population can attest to that. According to NAACP.org, the US has 25% of the world’s prisoners. This is still happening today, specifically to people of color. One in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime.Clearly, there’s a problem here, and Ira McKinley seeks to talk about it and bring the problem to light.
I highly recommend this film. You can check out the schedule of showings at thethrowawaysmovie.com. The Throwaways sheds light on past offenses of the Albany Police Department and reveals the effects of mass incarceration on communities of color. With the recent murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, this is a documentary that is very relevant and eye-opening, while hopefully inciting the spark for social action.Don’t be surprised if you leave the theatre wanting to shut the system down, and don’t hesitate to join us in the streets in the fight for justice.
Image from thethrowawaysmovie.com
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander