The American Indian Film Festival Shines a Spotlight on Native American Stories

I’m thrilled that a video I directed on behalf of the Center for Court Innovation has been selected to screen at the 42nd Annual American Indian Film Festival, which is sponsored by the American Indian Film Institute. The video showcases the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reintegration Program, which works with tribal members returning to home from incarceration.

The odds are often stacked against folks who need to find jobs, homes and to reestablish family and social connections after months and years in jail or prison. For many, the task is so overwhelming that they often end up committing new crimes and returning to jail. That’s why reentry programs like the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reintegration Program are so important. The staff at the Reintegration Program provide emotional and material support, helping with tasks both large and small. For instance, they help clients get their driver’s license (crucial for getting and keeping a job) and clearing fines (crucial for establishing credit and having enough money to pay bills) as well as finding a job and housing.

I feel incredibly lucky to have worked on this project, which is run by wonderful people who are achieving amazing things. For four days last year, the staff of the Reintegration Program answered our questions, introduced us to their clients and collaborators, and allowed us to witness first hand how they’re changing lives.

What Does Reintegration Mean to You? The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reintegration Program is screening on Nov. 5 in the Brave Theatre Center, 2781 24th Street in San Francisco from noon to 4 p.m.

New Animated Video Highlights Ways Courts Can be More Sensitive to Diverse Populations

I helped write, direct and produce this animated video that encourages courts to become more user friendly for diverse populations. Although it might seem simple and straight forward, a lot of discussion and planning went into every aspect, from the script to the animation to the music.

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Combating Human Trafficking in Houston

One of the best parts of my day job is that I get to meet and talk to people who are trying to make the world a better place. Ann Johnson, an assistant district attorney and the human trafficking section chief of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in Texas, is one of those people. Her office is making a concerted effort to stop human trafficking.

A key step in their efforts is to recognize that people arrested for prostitution are victims rather than criminals. Instead of charging these victims with a crime (as many prosecutors around the country still do) Ann’s team either dismisses the cases outright or at least offers a way to avoid prosecution.

One of the office’s diversion programs, SAFE Court, gives those aged 17 to 25 who are charged with prostitution the opportunity to clear the charge from their criminal records by completing a year-long program of monitoring and social services.

You can listen to my interview with Ann here or on iTunes.

Making a Video

I spoke to members of the Youth Justice Board this week about how to make a video. The board is a very cool teen leadership program that teaches New York City high school students how to analyze policies that affect teens and do something about them. They tackle subjects like truancy, kids in foster care, school safety, and kids and crime. This year’s group is planning on making a training video for police officers that provides youth perspectives on cop-teen interactions, and they asked me questions about the videos I’ve directed and edited. Before I spoke, they placed me in the “hot seat”– a chair at the front of the room where they asked me rapid-fire yes-no questions for seven minutes: Have you been to Europe? Have you ever gone hiking? Do you eat shrimp? Do you know anyone famous? Do you have kids? And then they asked great questions about how to make a video–so great, that I didn’t always have the answers. I’ll be helping them now and then, especially toward the end during the editing. If their thoughtful questions are any indication, I’m sure they’ll come up with wonderful footage to work with.

‘They Treated Me Like a Person: Inside the Red Hook Community Justice Center’

It’s rare when something evolves from a good idea to successful reality. I’ve been lucky to have witnessed part of that process when it comes to the Red Hook Community Justice Center, which was established in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2000 through the collaboration of many people, organizations and government agencies, including the Center for Court Innovation and the New York State Unified Court System.

I was at its opening ceremony in 2000 and was at its 15th anniversary celebration a couple weeks ago at the Brooklyn Museum. In the interim, the Justice Center has become an international model of justice reform by implementing innovative strategies that have reduced the use of jail, lowered recidivism and strengthened public confidence in justice.

A number of the people who make the Justice Center so successful are captured in this video, which I was lucky enough to direct.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/dxdjnXpZgjI?rel=0