Facts & Resources
Meet the Filmmakers
Documentary for Health & Social Justice
"If you put a man and a woman side by side and they're convicted of the same crime, 9 out of 10, the woman's gonna get stiffer, harder time." -Film Participant
EMPOWERING THE YARD - Set in Oklahoma where more women are incarcerated per capita than anywhere else in the country, EMPOWERING THE YARD looks at HIV prevention from the perspective of incarcerated women who are using peer education to empower themselves, their families, and their communities.
The HIV Peer Education Program provides an opportunity for incarcerated women to teach each other about the issues they face including safe sex, sexually transmitted infections, drugs, and violence. This 15-minute film follows five HIV Peer Educators who explain why incarceration rates for women are so high and speak to the self-esteem and empowerment they have gained through the HIV Peer Education Program.
Use the accompanying Discussion Guide below to help viewers think critically about why so many women are incarcerated, how social conditions affect HIV transition, and foster dialog about what can be done.
The purpose of this discussion guide is to help viewers think critically about why so many women are incarcerated, how social conditions affect HIV transition, and foster dialog about what can be done.
- Poverty, sexism, substance use, and a history of oppression increase the risks of incarceration and HIV.
- Peer Education Programs in prisons and jails have the power to transform lives of incarcerated women, their families and communities through knowledge, empowerment, and self-esteem.
- What social justice issues stood out to you most the film and why?
- Patrice Wooden says, "The system in Oklahoma is broke down.:
What does she mean by this?
What are the social conditions that lead up to incarceration?
Are these the same factors that lead to getting HIV?
- Kimberlynn Bates says, "There was this guy who went in before me and my husband, we had the exact same crime and he got seven years, I got 29. When I seen him get the seven, I thought, oh my god, I might got a chance, but I didn't."
Why do you think Kimberlynn was sentenced 22 years longer than the man before her with the exact same charge?
How is sentencing decided and by whom?
- Program founder, Dr. Melanie Spector says, "The experiences of women who are incarcerated are unique. And they can speak to those issues that present risk factors for HIV and STD's much better than any academic."
Why do you thing using peer education might be an effective HIV prevention intervention model?
What are the benefits to peer educators?
What are the benefits to program participants?
- Mary Reddick says, "If weren't for the HIV group here or the program, I don't think I would have the self esteem within me today to go forward because if I just sat here and done my time I would have learned nothing and gone out the same way so I have a chance now of making something of my life I think because of the HIV program."
Describe the relationship between the HIV Peer Education Program, reentry into the community and recidivism.
- Patrice Wooden says, "The majority of the women that are incarcerated are drug addicts. Drug addicts should not be locked up in prison. They need to be addressed for their drug issues."
What kind of resources or services are needed to reduce rates of incarceration and HIV?
- As of January 1, 2008, 1% of the entire U.S. population is incarcerated. (Source: PEW Center on the States Report, One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008) How do sky- rocketing rates of incarceration impact the fabric of our communities?
- Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones says, "You can take this model and expand it to the community ... . Every community group out there should take an active role in eradicating HIV."
Where else could peer education be used to prevent incarceration and HIV?
- What can you, your family and your community do to support peer education to reduce rates of incarceration and HIV?
ACLU Prisoner Rights Project
Institute on Women & Criminal Justice
Tel: (646) 336-6100
Legal Services for Prisoners With Children
Tel: (415) 255-7036
National AIDS Fund
Tel: (202) 408-4848
- The Well Project www.thewellproject.org
- HIV InSite http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/
- The Body: The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource www.thebody.com/
Emily Kirsch, Erin Persley and Vince Horner
Emily is a young woman with a fierce passion for academic excellence andsocial justice. Born and raised in the Bay Area, Emily is a graduatingsenior from San Francisco State University with a self-designed majorin Urban Health, Justice and Sustainability. Since she was a teenager,Emily has worked on behalf of her generation, developing her knowledgeand skills for sustainable development and health equity. Emily isworking as a research consultant for the Green Collar Job Campaign atthe Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. When not doing homework, makinga film, or doing community based research, you can catch her throwingreally fast kicks as she trains the Brazilian martial art/dance ofCapoeira in Oakland, CA. Emily is excited to release EMPOWERING THEYARD and looks forward to working full time in advocacy, organizing,and policy for health and social justice.
Bornin Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Florida, where she attended theUniversity of Florida, Erin Persley directed and edited several shortsincluding Berkeley of the South (2004) and Struggle for Choice (2002),which dealt with social justice subjects ranging from abortion to theanti-war student movement. Currently at the graduate film program atSan Francisco State University, she combines her hybrid filmmaking withproducing and coordinating other shorts including Fragile Distance(2007) and A Green Mountain in the Drawer (2007). Her first graduatework, Please Report Any Suspicious Activity (2007), focused on theairport institution and used poetics to explore over zealous securitymeasures and unseen spaces. Recently Erin completed, Empowering theYard (2008), which was a collaborative film project examining a peereducation program in a Oklahoman prison. She is currently working onher master's thesis, which deals with women who have been released fromprison.
VincentHorner currently lives in Oakland, CA and is completing his final yearin the undergraduate cinema program at San Francisco State University. He is primarily interested in documentary and avant-garde cinema andstrives to bring the two to equilibrium through constant exploration ofthe aesthetic possibilities and limits of the celluloid and digitalvideo formats. After completing his BA he plans to continue hiseducation on a graduate level, work in the field of video editing andpost-production, and produce feature length documentaries that harnessthe mediums potential as a tool for both social change and artisticexpression.
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