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.
Reviews and Festivals“Inspirational. Performing in front of two audiences, one in a theater, the other in a prison, all four speak of the forces that made them want to change.”
–New York Times
"Recommended. An insightful and candid portrait of the experiences of four ex-convicts telling their own stories."
– Educational Media Reviews Online
“Compelling, heartfelt … serves as an inspiration for current convicts and as a cautionary tale.”
–NYC Movie Guru
“Released is a powerful look at the personal journey into, through and out of the criminal justice system. These narratives bring us face to face with the painful experiences of four individuals who despite the hardest of challenges found strength and resilience within themselves in the face of hopelessness. The film gives voice and humanity not just to their stories but to the thousands upon thousands of people, just like them, who have not yet been released, in every sense.”
–Women’s Prison Association
"The four...tell their stories simply and powerfully. Teens and teachers interested in social justice will want to see and utilize this honest, empowering, and inspirational film."
– School Library Journal