What We Leave Behind

In 1999, Beyondmedia began working with 42 recently released women at Grace House in Chicago. After participating in a media production workshop these women produced an award-winning video, What We Leave Behind, to educate the public about some of the causes and effects of women's incarceration. Over 200 groups nationwide now use this video as an organizing and educational tool and many former prisoners have developed as public speakers and advocates through facilitating audience discussions with screenings. Through Beyondmedia's Women and Prison program, incarcerated women and girls, former prisoners and their families use media arts to voice their stories, promoting public dialogue, healing and community organizing. Since 1997, Beyondmedia has collaborated extensively with women and girls in prison and after their incarceration to create interdisciplinary, multimedia educational forums on women and prison.

00:00Copy video clip URL Various women narrate title slides for “What We Leave Behind.”

00:32Copy video clip URL A woman narrates her experience attending court while shackled and the humiliation and physical pain she felt.

01:35Copy video clip URL Title sequence and music.

01:56Copy video clip URL A woman poses questions to youth gathered at a neighborhood park playground with other formerly incarcerated women. The youth respond to questions like “What do you think prison is like?” and “What do you feel about women in prison?”

02:51Copy video clip URL A woman talks about the lack of proper medical care for incarcerated women. Images from inside jail conjure a flashback effect.

03:32Copy video clip URL Carolyn Watson discusses with a group of women the bonds she made with other incarcerated women. Another woman describes struggles with recidivism and the desire to change others’ lives for the better.

04:38Copy video clip URL A women recites the poem “Prison Life,” by Kemba Johnson-Webb.

05:52Copy video clip URL At a public rally outside the Thompson Center in Chicago, a formerly incarcerated woman reads a letter from her fourteen-year-old son. Carolyn Watson speaks.

07:10Copy video clip URL Group interview with Watson’s son, Atu. They reflect on the impact of Watson’s incarceration on her son’s development and the pain of separation and grief. At the rally, Watson talks about the hidden “sentence” endured by her son, unable to access the same services that she could in prison and her reintegration into society, such as those offered at Grace House.

08:42Copy video clip URL Watson interviews Solomon, a young man whose mother was sent to prison when he was 14-years-old.

10:31Copy video clip URL Another woman speaks at the Thompson Center rally about the impact of losing her mother to the prison system.

11:16Copy video clip URL Gail Smith, with Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers (CLAIM), speaks at the Thompson Center rally. She explains recent legislation passed by the Illinois state legislature to terminate parental rights for incarcerated individuals. A group of women speak about the impact of incarceration on families. Smith denounces the separation of families and the creation of “legal orphans” caused by laws that take away parental rights.

12:43Copy video clip URL At the neighborhood park, the group of youth answer the question “What do drugs have to do with it?” They give witness to the social pressures of drug dealers on the community fabric.

13:23Copy video clip URL A woman speaks about the degrading circumstances of heavily regulated life in prison. Another woman recalls her experience entering childbirth while locked in her cell.

15:20Copy video clip URL “Slavery Still,” a spoken word poem by Kemba Johnson-Webb about the racial injustices of the prison-industrial complex and its continuation of the systemic violence wrought by Jim Crow and slavery.

16:21Copy video clip URL The young women at the park answer the question “Do youth crimes always lead to adult crimes?”

17:02Copy video clip URL Footage from a women’s county jail. A woman laments all the lives of women and their children destroyed by the prison system.

18:30Copy video clip URL Back at the park, the group of young woman answer “What do you think can prevent young women from going to prison?”

18:57Copy video clip URL Statistics on the incarceration rates of women in the United States.

20:13Copy video clip URL Credits.



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