In Their Shoes

The war against drugs. It happened in the United States during Ronald Reagan’s time as president and due to fentanyl deaths and the high rate of opiate addiction, it is taking place again. Though it seems like the only answer being offered to the problem is incarceration. Even though it has been shown time and time again that throwing people in jail does not help them get off or stay off drugs. All it does is make us fearful and feel hatred towards those who are drug addicts. This documentary by Taylor Katsanis (first feature film) attempts to give a forum for those we have jailed and basically ostracized a voice to tell their own stories.

In their own words we get to know four inmates who were jailed for different times, but all of who committed crimes while on drugs. Lorne (53 years old and in jail for 27 years), Stephen (27 years old and in jail for 7 years), Jean (36 years old and in jail for 17 years), and Zach (34 years old and in jail for 3.5 years). All we in jail in Boston and we follow them as they are being released. They all took part in a program in prison started by two women (one, Cheryl Buchanan, is interviewed and appears in the documentary) called Writers Without Margins, which encourages them to write in order to work through what they are feeling.

While listening to what they have gone through and the stories of their lives you begin to realize the complexity. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Or easy.

A high percentage of people in jail in the United States are there because of drugs. An astonishing 90-95%. While only 15% get treatment while incarcerated. I am sure the stats are similar in Canada.

Prevent, arrest or treat. These are the options of what to do with addicts. It has been shown that unless you use all three together you will never work towards a solution. We also have to figure out a way to help them reenter society successfully.

The fact of how tough it is for these people to return to life is driven home when two of the men are incarcerated over the period of the one year the documentary was being filmed.

An important doc that will hopefully provoke plenty of discussions. Discussions about addiction, treatment, justice, mental health, and how race/class factors into it all.

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