SXSW 2019

Escaping Rikers Island: A Cinematic Journey


Although mass incarceration has entered the public discourse, we tend to examine it in reductive ways. We consider prison policy, public perception and individual experiences, but never all at once. Incarceration seeps into many aspects of life, and as such, its analysis requires an interdisciplinary approach. Through the story of Michael Martin, a 19-year-old formerly incarcerated in Rikers Island, we connect personal storytelling with policy changes and mass media. Unlike most juvenile prisoners, Michael has had the opportunity to craft a documentary about his experience and share it with the world through BYkids. In this panel, we will view excerpts from Michael's documentary and discuss how creating it informed Michael's life after Rikers.

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  1. Incarceration, especially for youth, affect the child, the family, the community. That cost is rarely made personal.
  2. Film, journalism and social media shape public opinion and this personal story can inform social change. This PBS film will spark the conversation.
  3. Hearing directly from someone affected by the juvenile justice system, and those around him, allows a more humane approach to public policy.



Holly Carter, Founder and Executive Director, BYkids

Meta Information:

  • Event: SXSW
  • Format: Panel
  • Track: Media & Journalism
  • Track 2
  • Level: Advanced

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