Orlando Screening Fact Sheet & Faith in the Big House Short Synopsis
Night of March 19th FACTS
Screening At The Plaza At 8 PM O N Friday March 19th the first public sneak preview of Faith In The Big House, shown in Standard Definition Fine-Cut form, running at 85 Minutes. As an extra feature we will screen Turned Out: Sexual Assault Behind Bars at 10 PM also produced by Interlock Media and Directed by Jonathan Schwartz.
Portions of Faith were filmed in Orlando, and the Executive Producer of this Indy Doc is Orlando’s own Edward Poitras.
The final Release of faith will be HD Pro and will go through an on-line and mix to pix and be expanded to 88 mins.
Faith in the Big House
I. Brief Summary of Program:
The power of the growing prison ministry movement is put to the test as six Louisianian inmates struggle to break the cycle of incarceration. the late Orlando based Bishop Frank Constantino, a former mobster, serves up his prison to pulpit story as well.
II. Condensed Treatment
At the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, strict routines and hopelessness are the norm. On the outskirts of a dusty Louisianan Delta town near Baton Rouge, Hunt houses the largest maximum-security inmate population in a state that already has the highest per capita incarceration rate. Over three thousand inmates, mostly from New Orleans' notorious Ninth Ward, call the 18,000-acre prison farm home.
In the US, one out of a hundred citizens is currently behind bars. Three out of every four incarcerated individuals return to prison following release. In the South, it’s eight out of ten. These are discouraging stats for those that oversee the criminal justice system. Some turn to faith-based rehabilitation, revivals, and Bible studies as the answer. Prison ministries offer services at no charge at a time when funding for secular treatment and educational programs are being slashed. At the very least they do seem to keep inmate violence down. Faith in the Big House contextualizes the debate surrounding fundamentalist Christian missions inside prisons. Residents Encounter Christ (REC), a small-time operation out of Sedalia, Missouri, is just one of hundreds of programs that seek to rescue souls deemed unsalvageable. Participation is strictly voluntary, but the promise of a break from the routine and better food guarantees attendance. Many who sign on have never set foot in the prison chapel.
Faith in the Big House asks: Can prison ministry truly change hardened criminals and can this instilled faith extend post-release? Does an emphasis on spiritual cures jeopardize resources needed for secular drug rehab and vocational training? Can true spirituality exist in a place like Hunt? Jeff Barkacs, a troubled single-dad, directs the REC weekend retreat at Hunt. Traveling nearly 700 miles at his own expense, he works with a small group of religious volunteers to offer their multi-denominational message to any inmate who will listen. Using persuasive tactics, motivational speaking, and traditional religious preaching they hope to bring lasting change to inmates’ lives. Barkacs certainly has his work cut out for him. Barkacs offers unconditional love and forgiveness and tough talk and humor from zealous ex-cons. Some prisoners sign up for personal gain – being a Christian in prison can look good to the parole board. Others are truly searching. Barkacs is both charismatic and complaining, compassionate and sometimes bitingly cruel, and a still-struggling ex-alcoholic.
Kenny Simmons is an articulate former Louisiana State University football star with an infectious smile; it's easy to forget that he's serving 20 years for battery. As a practicing Muslim, Kenny is at times put off by conservative Christianity, but enjoys the earnest camaraderie of the retreat. He tries to keep an open mind, perhaps in part because Christianity could be an enormous help upon his release. Rusty Patterson's reasons for joining the workshop are harder to tease out. As a four-time drug offender, he exhibits the typical language of an unreformed user – blames and excuses. His first love is music but his primary interest is himself.
Timothy “Ice” Anderson believes in God and possibly white supremacy, but neither belief runs deep. His Sundays are devoted to softball, so his presence at the retreat surprises everyone.
Clay Logan is an astute self-styled prison theologian with a genuine interest in all religions. He checks out REC after starting to disassociate himself from Hunt's Muslim community. When he entered prison at sixteen, Clay was white, a Wiccan, and a Goth-- sentenced to forty years for killing his mother. With thirty years left, he has plenty of time to contemplate spirituality and alienation. Eric Cryer has become a single father while behind bars following the death of his wife. In one-on-one sessions with prayer warrior Ted Poitras he vows to be a better dad and to turn his life around upon his release. Leon Reddick, AKA Tyson, is a feared gang-banger at the end of a twenty-year sentence, so the issue of re-joining society is foremost on his mind. He has a born again Christian girlfriend who visits him every Saturday, and to everyone's surprise, he's baptized at the retreat. Shortly after his conversion, he's locked down for masturbating in front of a female guard, a common charge for those placed in solitary confinement. The most controversial Faith character is Greg Riley, a Christian pastor and teacher who sodomized his four foster siblings. The Chaplain lost one-third of his inmate congregation when he appointed Riley musical director. The organizers know that what often launches the conversion process for inmates is the letters sent them by anonymous Sunday school children which offer nonjudgemental love. As part of the weekend program, the men who participate encounter group-type activities such as performing skits of biblical tales. They address their sins and misdeeds by writing them down on paper and burning them solemnly.
The US has a long history of attempting to use religion as a means of reforming criminals. Chuck Colson, of Watergate fame, leads Innerchange, the world's largest ministry for convicts, ex-offenders, and their families. 50,000 volunteers, many from mainstream Protestant and Catholic congregations, support Colson's efforts. Back at Hunt Correctional a new chapel frames the front entrance. Its steeple rises as high the guard tower. For some inmates this chapel symbolizes hope for a better life.
Faith tracks the complexities of faith-based rehabilitation at a time when even the notion of rehabilitation has become something of a national joke and repeat offenders are the norm.