Two-thirds of convicts released from prison return behind bars within three years. RELEASED
presents the hopeful stories of four parolees who prove that the tide of recidivism can be reversed, if former prisoners are given the support they need to reenter society.
The four -- Vilma Ortiz Donovan, Kenneth Harrigan, Casimiro Torres and Angel Ramos – spent over 70 years in prison combined. Released with no homes to go to or jobs for support, they ended up in a prisoner reentry facility in New York City known as “The Castle”, run by former convicts and established by The Fortune Society. With the help of The Castle, all four overcame their traumatic personal histories and chronic criminal behavior to become exemplary citizens.
As part of their rehabilitation, they worked developing their life stories into a spoken word play that ran Off-Broadway for 14 months. In the play, each of them bares their souls in a painfully honest retelling of their personal stories -- from childhood and their crimes, to life in prison and the forces that helped them change. The film features scenes from the play being presented to prisoners and to a theater audience, along with other filmed scenes.
All four speak about how what ought to be the final redemptive chapter -- release from prison -- is often the hardest challenge of all. Dropped back into society with little or no preparation and support virtually insures a high failure rate. Having spent 30 years in prison, Angel Ramos asks: “How do I live like a normal human being when I have no idea what normal is?”
Their life-affirming stories of change provide an important model for reducing the rate of repeat offenders.